The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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#17: Memo from Rostow to Kennedy with Nine Proposals for Action

Memorandum from Walt W. Rostow, deputy Presidential assistant for national security, to President Kennedy, April 12, 1961.

Now that the Viet-Nam election is over, I believe we must turn to gearing up the whole Viet-Nam operation. Among the possible lines of action that might be considered at an early high level meeting are the following:

1. The appointment of a full time first-rate back-stop man in Washington. McNamara, as well as your staff, believes this to be essential.

2. The briefing of our new Ambassador, Fritz Nolting, including sufficient talk with yourself so that he fully understands the priority you attach to the Viet-Nam problem.

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

4. A possible visit to the United States of Mr. Thuan, acting Defense Minister, and one of the few men around Diem with operational capacity and vigor.

5. The sending to Viet-Nam of a research and development and military hardware team which would explore with General McGarr which of the various techniques and gadgets now available or being explored might be relevant and useful in the Viet-Nam operation.

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

7. The question of replacing the present ICA Chief in Viet-Nam, who, by all accounts, has expanded his capital. We need a vigorous man who can work well with the military, since some of the rural development problems relate closely to guerilla operations.

8. Sending the question of the extra funds for Diem.

9. The tactics of persuading Diem to move more rapidly to broaden the base of his government, as well as to decrease its centralization and improve its efficiency.

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

#18: Vietnam "Program of Action" by Kennedy's Task Force

Excerpts from "A Program of Action for South Vietnam," May 8, 1961, presented to President Kennedy by an interdepartmental task force comprising representatives from the Departments of State and Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the International Cooperation Administration, the United States Information Agency and the Office of the President.

... 2. 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.

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

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

(1) Assist the G.v.N. armed forces to increase their border patrol and insurgency suppression capabilities by establishing an effective border intelligence and patrol system, by instituting regular aerial surveillance over the entire frontier area, and by applying modern technological area-denial techniques to control the roads and trails along Vietnam's borders. A special staff element (approximately 6 U.S. personnel), to concentrate upon solutions to the unique problems of Vietnam's borders, will be activated in MAAG, Vietnam, to assist a similar special unit in the RVNAF which the G.V.N. will be encouraged to establish; these two elements working as an integrated team will help the G.V.N. gain the support of nomadic tribes and other border inhabitants, as well as introduce advanced techniques and equipment to strengthen the security of South Vietnam's frontiers.

(2) Assist the G.V.N. to establish a Combat Development and Test Center in South Vietnam to develop, with the help of modern technology, new techniques for use against the Viet Cong forces. (Approximately 4 U.S. personnel.)

(3) Assist the G.V.N. forces with health, welfare and public work projects by providing U.S. Army civic action mobile training teams, coordinated with the similar civilian effort. (Approximately 14 U.S. personnel.)

(4) Deploy a Special Forces Group (approximately 400 personnel) to Nha Trang in order to accelerate G.V.N. Special Forces training. The first increment, for immediate deployment in Vietnam, should be a Special Forces company (52 personnel).

(5) Instruct JCS, CINCPAC, and MAAG to undertake an assessment of the military utility of a further increase in the G.V.N. forces from 170,000 to 200,000 in order to create two new division equivalents for deployment to the northwest border region. The parallel political and fiscal implications should be assessed ....


1. Objective : Undertake economic programs having both a short-term immediate impact as well as ones which contribute to the longer range economic viability of the country.

a. Undertake a series of economic projects designed to accompany the counter-insurgency effort, by the following action:

(1) Grant to ICA the authority and funds to move into a rural development-civic action program. Such a program would include short-range, simple, impact projects which would be undertaken by teams working in cooperation with local communities. 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 use of dollar instruments to purchase local currency on the spot.

b. Assist Vietnam to make the best use of all available economic 1esources, by the following action:

(1) Having in mind that our chief objective is obtaining a full and enthusiastic support by the G.V.N. 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 Vietnamese 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 should notify Diem of the proposed visit of this group stressing that their objective is clearly to maximize the joint effort rather than to force the Vietnamese into inequitable and unpalatable actions.

(2) As a part of the foregoing effort, an assessment should be undertaken of the fiscal and other economic implications of a further force increase from 170,000 to 200,000 (as noted in the Military section above).

c. Undertake the development of a long-range economic development program as a means of demonstrating U.S. confidence in the economic and political future of the country by the following action:

(1) Authorize Ambassador Nolting to inform the G.V.N. that the U.S. is prepared to discuss a long-range joint five-year development program which would involve contributions and undertakings by both parties ....


a. Assist the G.V.N. to accelerate its public information program to help develop a broad public understanding of the actions required to combat the Communist insurgents and to build public confidence in the G.V.N.'s determination and ability to deal with the Communist threat.

b. The U.S. Country Team, in coordination with the G.V.N. Ministry of Defense, should compile and declassify for use of media representatives in South Vietnam and throughout the world, documented facts concerning Communist infiltration and terrorists' activities and the measures being taken by the G.V.N. to counter such attacks.

c. In coordination with CIA and the appropriate G.V.N. Ministry, USIS will increase the flow of information about unfavorable conditions in North Vietnam to media representatives.

d. Develop agricultural pilot-projects throughout the country, with a view toward exploiting their beneficial psychological effects. This project would be accomplished by combined teams of Vietnamese Civic Action personnel, Americans in the Peace Corps, Filipinos in Operation Brotherhood, and other Free World nationals.

e. Exploit as a part of a planned psychological campaign and rehabilitation of Communist Viet Cong prisoners now held in South Vietnam. Testimony of rehabilitated prisoners, stressing the errors of Communism, should be broadcast to Communist-held areas, including North Vietnam, 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.

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


a. Expand present operations in the field of intelligence, unconventional warfare, and political-psychological activities to support the U.S. objective as stated.

b. Initiate the communications intelligence actions, CIA and ASA personnel increases, and funding which were approved by the President at the NSC meeting of 29 April 1961.

c. Expand the communications intelligence actions by inclusion of 15 additional Army Security Agency personnel to train the Vietnamese Army in tactical COMINT operations ....


a. As spelled out in the funding annex, the funding of the counter-insurgency plan and the other actions recommended in this program might necessitate increases in U.S. support of the G.V.N. budget for FY 61 of as much as $58 million, making up to a total of $192 million compared to $155 million for FY 60. The U.S. contribution for the G.V.N. Defense budget in FY 62 as presently estimated would total $161 million plus any deficiency in that Budget which the G.V.N. might be unable to finance. The exact amount of U.S. contributions to the G.V.N. Defense budgets for FY 61 and FY 62 are subject to negotiation between the U.S. and the G.V.N.

b. U.S. military assistance to G.V.N., in order to provide the support contemplated by the proposed program would total $140 million, or $71 million more than now programmed for Vietnam in the U.S. current MAP budget for FY 62....

ANNEX 6: Covert Actions

a. Intelligence: Expand current positive and counter-intelligence operations against Communist forces in South Vietnam and against North Vietnam. These include penetration of the Vietnamese Communist mechanism, dispatch of agents to North Vietnam and strengthening Vietnamese internal security services. Authorization should be given, subject to existing procedures, for the use in North Vietnam operations of civilian air crews of American and other nationality, as appropriate, in addition to Vietnamese. Consideration should be given for overflights of North Vietnam for photographic intelligence coverage, using American or Chinese Nationalists crews and equipment as necessary.

b. Communications Intelligence: Expand the current program of interception and direction-finding covering Vietnamese Communist communications activities in South Vietnam, as well as North Vietnam targets. Obtain further USIB authority to conduct these operations on a fully joint basis, permitting the sharing of results of interception, direction finding, traffic analysis and cryptographic analysis by American agencies with the Vietnamese to the extent needed to launch rapid attacks on Vietnamese Communist communications and command installations.

This program should be supplemented by a program, duly coordinated, of training additional Vietnamese Army units in intercept and direction-finding by the U.S. Army Security Agency. Also, U.S. Army Security Agency teams could be sent to Vietnam for direct operations, coordinated in the same manner- -- pproved by the President at the NSC meeting of 29 April 1961.

c. Unconventional Warfare: Expand present operations of the First Observation Battalion in guerrilla areas of South Vietnam, under joint MAAG-CIA sponsorship and direction. This should be in full operational collaboration with the Vietnamese, using Vietnamese civilians recruited with CIA aid.

In Laos, infiltrate teams under light civilian cover to Southeast Laos to locate and attack Vietnamese Communist bases and lines of communications. These teams should be supported by assault units of 100 to 150 Vietnamese for use on targets beyond capability of teams. Training of teams could be a combined operation by CIA and U.S. Army Special Forces.

In North Vietnam, using the foundation established by intelligence operations, form networks of resistance, covert bases and teams for sabotage and light harassment. A capability should be created by MAAG in the South Vietnamese Army to conduct Ranger raids and similar military actions in North Vietnam 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 overflights for dropping of leaflets to harass the Communists and to maintain morale of North Vietnamese population, and increase gray broadcasts to North Vietnam 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.

Build up an increase in the population's participation in and loyalty to free government in Vietnam, 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 toward a "political solution" while the Communists are attacking GVN. Effect, in support, a psychological program in Vietnam and elsewhere exploiting Communist brutality and aggression in North Vietnam.

e. The expanded program outlined above was estimated to require an additional 40 personnel for the CIA station and an increase in the CIA outlay for Vietnam of approximately $1.5 million for FY 62, partly compensated by the withdrawal of personnel from other areas. The U.S. Army Security Agency actions to supplement communications intelligence will require 78 personnel and approximately $1.2 million in equipment. The personnel and fund augmentations in this paragraph were approved by the President at the NSC meeting of 29 April 1961.

f. In order adequately to train the Vietnamese Army in tactical COMIT operations, the Army Security Agency estimates that an additional 15 personnel are required. This action has been approved by the U.S. Intelligence Board.

#19: '61 Memo from the Joint Chiefs on Commitment of U.S. Forces

Memorandum on "U.S. Forces in South Vietnam" from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, May 10, 1961.

1. In considering the possible commitment of U.S. forces to South Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the overall critical situation in Southeast Asia with particular emphasis upon the present highly flammable situation in South Vietnam. In this connection the question, however, of South Vietnam should not be considered in isolation but rather in conjunction with Thailand and their over-all relationship to the security of Southeast Asia. The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the question regarding the deployment of U.S. forces into Thailand were provided to you by JCSM-31l-61, dated 9 May 1961. The current potentially dangerous military and political situation in Laos, of course, is the focal point in this area. Assuming that the political decision is to hold Southeast Asia outside the Communist sphere, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that U.S. forces should be deployed immediately to South Vietnam; such action should be taken primarily to prevent the Vietnamese from being subjected to the same situation as presently exists in Laos, which would then require deployment of U.S. forces into an already existing combat situation.

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

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

b. Release Vietnamese forces from advanced and static defense positions to permit their fuller commitment to counter-insurgency actions;

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

d. Provide a nucleus for the support of any additional U.S. or SEATO military operation in Southeast Asia; and

e. Indicate the firmness of our intent to all Asian nations.

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

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

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

b. Upon receipt of this request, suitable forces could be immediately deployed to South Vietnam in order to accomplish the above-mentioned purposes. Details of size and composition of these forces must include the views of both CINCPAC and CHMAAG which are not yet available.

#20: U.S. Approval, in 1961, of Steps to Strengthen South Vietnam

National Security Action Memorandum 52, signed by McGeorge Bundy, Presidential adviser on national security, May 11, 1961.

1. The U.S. objective and concept of operations stated in 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, is confirmed.

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 G.V.N. 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 decisions 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.

#21: Report by Vice President Johnson on His Visit to Asian Countries

Excerpts from memorandum, "Mission to Southeast Asia, India and Pakistan," from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to President Kennedy, May 23, 1961.

... I took to Southeast Asia some basic convictions about the problems faced there. I have come away from the mission there -- and to India and Pakistan -- with many of those convictions sharpened and deepened by what I saw and learned. I have also reached certain other conclusions which I believe may be of value as guidance for those responsible in formulating policies.

These conclusions are as follows:

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

2. The struggle is far from lost in Southeast Asia and it is by no means inevitable that it must be lost. In each country it is possible to build a sound structure capable of withstanding and turning the Communist surge. The will to resist -- while now the target of subversive attack -- is there. The key to what is done by Asians in defense of Southeast Asia freedom is confidence in the United States.

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

4. SEATO is not now and probably never will be the answer because of British and French unwillingness to support decisive action. Asian distrust of the British and French is outspoken. Success at Geneva would prolong SEATO's role. Failure at Geneva would terminate SEATO's meaningfulness. In the latter event, we must be ready with a new approach to collective security in the area.

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

a) have a clear-cut command authority

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

5. Asian leaders -- at this time -- do not want American troops involved in Southeast Asia other than on training missions. American combat troop involvement is not only not required, it is not desirable. Possibly Americans fail to appreciate fully the subtlety that recently-colonial peoples would not look with favor upon governments which invited or accepted the return this soon of Western troops. To the extent that fear of ground troop involvement dominates our political responses to Asia in Congress or elsewhere, it seems most desirable to me to allay those paralyzing fears in confidence, on the strength of the individual statements made by leaders consulted on this trip. This does not minimize or disregard the probability that open attack would bring calls for U.S. combat troops. But the present probability of open attack seems scant, and we might gain much needed flexibility in our policies if the spectre of combat troop commitment could be lessened domestically.

6. Any help -- economic as well as military -- we give less developed nations to secure and maintain their freedom must be a part of a mutual effort. These nations cannot be saved by United States help alone. To the extent the Southeast Asian nations are prepared to take the necessary measures to make our aid effective, we can be -- and must be -- unstinting in our assistance. It would be useful to enunciate more clearly than we have -- for the guidance of these young and unsophisticated nations -- what we expect or require of them.

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

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

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

a. In Vietnam, Diem is a complex figure beset by many problems. He has admirable qualities, but he is remote from the people, is surrounded by persons less admirable and capable than he. The country can be saved -- if we move quickly and wisely. We must decide whether to support Diem -- or let Vietnam fall. We must have coordination of purpose in our country team, diplomatic and military. The Saigon Embassy, USIS, MAAG and related operations leave much to be desired. They should be brought up to maximum efficiency. The most important thing is imaginative, creative, American management of our military aid program. The Vietnamese and our MAAG estimate that $50 million of U.S. military and economic assistance will be needed if we decide to support Vietnam. This is the best information available to us at the present time and if it is confirmed by the best Washington military judgment it should be supported. Since you proposed and Diem agreed to a joint economic mission, it should be appointed and proceed forthwith.

b. In Thailand, the Thais and our own MAAG estimate probably as much is needed as in Vietnam -- about $50 million of military and economic assistance. Again, should our best military judgment concur, I believe we should support such a program. Sarit is more strongly and staunchly pro-Western than many of his people. He is and must be deeply concerned at the consequence to his country of a communist-controlled Laos. If Sarit is to stand firm against neutralism, he must have -- soon -- concrete evidence to show his people of United States military and economic support. He believes that his armed forces should be increased to 150,000. His Defense Minister is coming to Washington to discuss aid matters.

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

I believe that the mission -- as you conceived it -- was a success. I am grateful to the many who labored to make it so.

#22: Lansdale Memo for Taylor on Unconventional Warfare

Excerpts from memorandum from Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, Pentagon expert on guerrilla warfare, to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, President Kennedy's military adviser, on "Resources for Unconventional Warfare, S.E. Asia," undated but apparently from July, 1961. Copies were sent to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, and Gen. C. P. Cabell, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence.

This memo is in response to your desire for early information on unconventional-warfare resources in Southeast Asia. The information was compiled within Defense and CIA.


1. Vietnamese

a. First Observation Group

This is a Special Forces type of unit, with the mission of operating in denied (enemy) areas. It currently has some limited operations in North Vietnam and some shallow penetrations into Laos. Most of the unit has been committed to operations against Viet Cong guerillas in South Vietnam.

Strength, as of 6 July, was 340. The First Observation Group had an authorized strength of 305 and now is being increased by 500, for a total of 805, under the 20,000-man force increase. Personnel are volunteers who have been carefully screened by security organizations. Many are from North Vietnam. They have been trained for guerrilla operations, at the Group's training center at Nha Trang. The unit is MAP-supported, as a TO&E unit of the RVNAF (Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces). It receives special equipment and training from CIA and U.S. control is by CIA/MAAG.

The Group and its activities are highly classified by the Government of Vietnam. Only a select few senior RVNMAF officers have access to it. Operations require the approval of President Diem, on much the same approval basis as certain U.S. special operations. The unit is separate from normal RVNAF command channels.

The Group was organized in February, 1956, with the initial mission of preparing stay-behind organizations in South Vietnam just below the 17th Parallel, for guerrilla warfare in the event of an overt invasion by North Vietnamese forces. It was given combat missions against Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam last year, when these Communist guerrillas increased their activities. The plan is to relieve the Group from these combat assignments, to ready its full strength for denied area missions, as RVNAF force increases permit relief. It is currently being organized into twenty teams of 15 men each, with two RS-l radios per team, for future operations.

b. Other RVNAF

MAAG-Vietnam has reported the formation of additional volunteer groups, apart from the First Observation Group, for similar operations to augment the missions of the Group. As of 6 July, the additional volunteers were reported as:

1). 60 Mois (Montagnard tribesmen) recruited, being security screened, to receive Special Forces training.

2). 400 military (RVNAF), to receive Special Forces training. 80 will be formed into small teams, to augment operations of the First Operations Group. 320 will be formed into two Ranger (Airborne) companies.

3). 70 civilians, being organized and trained for stay-behind operations, penetration teams, and communicators.

Other special units of the RVNAF, now committed to operations against the Viet Cong and with Special Forces/Ranger training, are:

9,096 Rangers, in 65 companies.

2,772 more Rangers being activated, part of 20,000-man increase

4,786 Paratroopers

2,300 Marines

673 men in Psychological Warfare Bn.

In addition, cadres from all other combat elements of the RVNAF have received Special Forces/Ranger training.

2. U.S.

a. Defense

1). There are approximately 6 officers and 6 enlisted men from the 1st Special Group on Okinawa currently attached to the MAAG to assist with Ranger-type training.

2). There are three 4-man intelligence training teams present -- Combat Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Photo-Interpretation and Foreign Operations Intelligence (clandestine collection) in addition to eight officers and two enlisted intelligence advisors on the MAAG staff.

3). There are two Psychological Warfare staff officers on the MAAG staff and a 4-man Civil Affairs mobile training team (3 officers -- 1 enlisted man) advising the G-5 staff of the Vietnamese Army in the psy/ops-civic action fields.

b. CIA

1). There are 9 CIA officers working with the First Observation Group in addition to one MAAG advisor.

2). CIA also has five officers working with the Vietnamese Military Intelligence Service and one officer working with the covert [one word illegible] of the Army Psychological Warfare Directorate.


1. Thai

a. Royal Thai Army Ranger Battalion (Airborne)

A Special Forces type unit, its stated mission is to organize and conduct guerrilla warfare in areas of Thailand overrun by the enemy in case of an open invasion of Thailand. It currently has the mission of supplying the Palace Guard for the Prime Minister.

Based at Lopburi, the Ranger Battalion has a MAP authorized strength of 580. It is organized into a Headquarters and Headquarters company, a Service company, and four Ranger companies. The Battalion has 4 command detachments and 26 operations detachments, trained and organized along the lines of U.S. Special Forces in strength, equipment, and rank structure.

The Ranger Battalion is loosely attached to the 1st Division. In reality, it is an independent unit of the Royal Thai Army, under the direct control of Field Marshal Sarit, the Commander in Chief, and receives preferential treatment.

Each ranger company has been assigned a region of Thailand, in which it is to be prepared to undertake guerrilla warfare in case of enemy occupation. Field training is conducted in these assigned regions, to acquaint the detachments with the people, facilities and terrain.

b. Police Aerial Resupply Unit (PARU)

The PARU has a mission of undertaking clandestine operations in denied areas. 99 PARU personnel have been introduced covertly to assist the Meos in operations in Laos, where their combat performance has been outstanding.

This is a special police unit, supported by CIA (CIA control in the Meo operations has been reported as excellent), with a current strength of 300 being increased to 550 as rapidly as possible. All personnel are specially selected and screened, and have been rated as of high quality. Officers are selected from the ranks.

Training consists of 10 weeks' basic training, 3 weeks' jumping, 3 weeks' jungle operations, 4 weeks' police law and 3 months of refresher training yearly. Forty individuals have been trained as W/T communicators.

All personnel have adequate personal gear to be self-sustaining in the jungle. Weapons are M-1 rifles, M-3 submachine guns and BAR. In addition, personnel are trained to use other automatic weapons, 2.34 rocket launchers, and 60-mm. mortars.

There are presently 13 PARU teams, totaling 99 men, operating with the Meo guerillas in Laos. Combat reports of these operations have included exceptionally heroic and meritorious actions by PARU personnel. The PARU teams have provided timely intelligence and have worked effectively with local tribes.

c. Thai Border Patrol (BPP)

The mission of the BPP is to counter infiltration and subversion during peace-time, in addition to normal police duties, in the event of an armed invasion of Thailand, the BPP will operate as guerrilla forces in enemy-held areas, in support of regular Thai armed forces.

The BPP has a current strength of 4,500. It was organized in 1955 as a gendarmerie patrol force (name changed to BPP in 1959), composed of 71 active and 23 reserve platoons, from existing police units. It is an element of the Thai National Police, subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.

Although technically a police organization, the BPP is armed with infantry weapons, including light machine guns, rocket launchers and light mortars. It is trained in small-unit infantry tactics and counter-guerrilla operations. Training is currently being conducted by a 10-man U.S. Army Special Forces team from Okinawa, under ICA auspices.

This unusual police unit was created initially to cope with problems posed by foreign guerrilla elements using Thailand as a safehaven: the Vietminh in eastern Thailand and the Chinese Communists along the Malayan border in the south. There has been some tactical liaison with Burmese Army units.

2. U.S.

a. Defense

1). A Special Forces qualified officer is assigned to advise the RTA Ranger Battalion.

2). A ten-man Special Forces team from the 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa is currently conducting training for the Thai Border Patrol Police under ICA auspices.

3). There are 5 officers and 1 enlisted man attached to MAAG as advisers to J-2 and the Thai Armed Forces Security Center.

b. CIA

1). 2 advisers with PARU.

2). 3 officers who work with the Border Patrol Police providing advice, guidance and limited training in the collection and processing of intelligence in addition to management of their communications system.


1. Lao

a. Commandos

According to CINCP AC, there are two special commando companies in the Lao Armed Forces (FAL), with a total strength of 256. These commandos have received Special Forces training.

b. Meo Guerillas

About 9,000 Meo tribesmen have been equipped for guerrilla operations, which they are now conducting with considerable effectiveness in Communist-dominated territory in Laos. They have been organized into Auto-Defense Choc units of the FAL, of varying sizes. Estimates on how many more of these splendid fighting men could be recruited vary, but a realistic figure would be around 4,000 more, although the total manpower pool is larger.

Political leadership of the Meos is in the hands of Touby Lyfoung, who now operates mostly out of Vientiane. The military leader is Lt-Col Vang Pao, who is the field commander. Command control of Meo operations is exercised by the Chief CIA Vientiane with the advice of Chief MAAG Laos. The same CIA paramilitary and U.S. military teamwork is in existence for advisory activities (9 CIA operations officers, 9 LTAG/Army Special Forces personnel, in addition to the 99 Thai PARU under CIA control) and aerial resupply.

As Meo villages are over-run by Communist forces and as men leave food-raising duties to serve as guerrillas, a problem is growing over the care and feeding of non-combat Meos. CIA has given some rice and clothing to relieve this problem. Consideration needs to be given to organized relief, a mission of an ICA nature, to the handling of Meo refugees and their rehabilitation.

c. National Directorate of Coordination

This is the Intelligence arm of the RLG. Its operations are mainly in the Vientiane area at present. It has an armed unit consisting of two battalions and is under the command of Lt-Col Siho, a FAL officer. In addition to intelligence operations this force has a capability for sabotage, kidnapping, commando-type raids, etc.

d. There is also a local veteran's organization and a grass-roots political organization in Laos, both of which are subject to CIA direction and control and are capable of carrying out propaganda, sabotage and harrassment operations. Both are located (in varying degrees of strength and reliability) throughout Laos.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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2. U.S.

a. Defense

1). There are 154 Special Forces personnel (12 teams) from the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N. C., attached to the MAAG and providing tactical advice to FAL commanders and conducting basic training when the situation permits.

2). A 10-man intelligence training team is assisting the FAL in establishing a military intelligence system.

3). An 8-man psychological warfare team is assisting the FAL with psy war operations and operation of its radio transmitters.

b. CIA

1). Nine CIA officers are working in the field with the Meo guerrillas, backstopped by two additional officers in Vientiane.

2). Three CIA officers plus 2-3 Vietnamese are working with the National Directorate of Coordination.


1. Asian

a. Eastern Construction Company [Filipinos]

This is a private, Filipino-run public service organization, similar to an employment agency, with an almost untapped potential for unconventional warfare (which was its original mission). It now furnishes about 500 trained, experienced Filipino technicians to the Governments of Vietnam and Laos, under the auspices of MAAGs (MAP) and USOMs (ICA activities). Most of these Filipinos are currently augmenting U.S. military logistics programs with the Vietnamese Army and Lao Army. They instruct local military personnel in ordnance, quartermaster, etc. maintenance, storage, and supply procedures. MAAG Chiefs in both Vietnam and Laos have rated this service as highly effective. CIA has influence and some continuing interest with individuals.

The head of Eastern Construction is "Frisco" Johnny San Juan, former National Commander, Philippines Veterans Legion, and former close staff assistant to President Magsaysay of the Philippines (serving as Presidential Complaints and Action Commissioner directly under the President). Its cadre are mostly either former guerrillas against the Japanese in WW II or former Philippine Army personnel. Most of the cadre had extensive combat experience against the Communist Huk guerrillas in the Philippines. This cadre can be expanded into a wide range of counter- Communist activities, having sufficient stature in the Philippines to be able to draw on a very large segment of its trained, experienced, and well-motivated manpower pool.

Eastern Construction was started in 1954 as Freedom Company of the Philippines, a non-profit organization, with President Magsaysay as its honorary president. Its charter stated plainly that it was "to serve the cause of freedom." It actually was a mechanism to permit the deployment of Filipino personnel in other Asian countries, for unconventional operations, under cover of a public service organization having a contract with the host government. Philippine Armed Forces and government personnel were "sheep-dipped" and served abroad. Its personnel helped write the Constitution of the Republic of Vietnam, trained Vietnam's Presidential Guard Battalion, and were instrumental in founding and organizing the Vietnamese Veterans Legion.

When U.S. personnel instrumental in the organization and operational use of Freedom Company departed from the Asian area, direct U.S. support of the organization (on a clandestine basis) was largely terminated. The Filipino leaders in it then decided to carryon its mission privately, as a commercial undertaking. They changed the name to Eastern Construction Company. The organization survived some months of very hard times financially. Its leaders remain as a highly-motivated, experienced, anti-Communist "hard core."

b. Operation Brotherhood (Filipino)

There is another private Filipino public-service organization, capable of considerable expansion in socio-economic-medical operations to support counter-guerilla actions. It is now operating teams in Laos, under ICA auspices. It has a measure of CIA control.

Operation Brotherhood (OB) was started in 1954 by the International Jaycees, under the inspiration and guidance of Oscar Arellano, a Filipino architect who was Vice President for Asia of the International Jaycees. The concept was to provide medical service to refugees and provincial farmers in South Vietnam, as part of the 1955 pacification and refugee program. Initially Filipino teams, later other Asian and European teams, served in OB in Vietnam. Their work was closely coordinated with Vietnamese Army operations which cleaned up Vietminh stay-behinds and started stabilizing rural areas ....

c. The Security Training Center (STC)

This is a counter-subversion, counter-guerrilla and psychological warfare school overtly operated by the Philippine Government and covertly sponsored by the U.S. Government through CIA as the instrument of the Country Team. It is located at Fort Mc- Kinley on the outskirts of Manila. Its stated mission is: "To counter the forces of subversion in Southeast Asia through more adequate training of security personnel, greater cooperation, better understanding and maximum initiative among the countries of the area." ...

The training capability of the STC includes a staff of approximately 12 instructors in the subjects of unconventional and counter-guerrilla warfare ....

d. CAT. Civil Air Transport (Chinese Nationalist)

CAT is a commercial air line engaged in scheduled and nonscheduled air operations throughout the Far East, with headquarters and large maintenance facilities located in Taiwan. CAT, a CIA proprietary, provides air logistical support under commercial cover to most CIA and other U.S. Government agencies' requirements. CAT supports covert and clandestine air operations by providing trained and experienced personnel, procurement of supplies and equipment through overt commercial channels, and the maintenance of a fairly large inventory of transport and other type aircraft under both Chinat and U.S. registry.

CAT has demonstrated its capability on numerous occasions to meet all types of contingency or long-term covert air requirements in support of U.S. objectives. During the past ten years, it has had some notable achievements, including support of the Chinese Nationalist withdrawal from the mainland, air drop support to the French at Dien Bien Phu, complete logistical and tactical air support for the Indonesian operation, air lifts of refugees from North Vietnam, more than 200 overflights of Mainland China and Tibet, and extensive air support in Laos during the current crisis ....

2. U.S.

b. CIA

1) Okinawa--Support Base

Okinawa Station is in itself a para-military support asset and, in critical situations calling for extensive support of UW activity in the Far East, could be devoted in its entirety to this mission. Located at Camp Chinen, it comprises a self-contained base under Army cover with facilities of all types necessary to the storage, testing, packaging, procurement and delivery of supplies -- ranging from weapons and explosives to medical and clothing. Because of it~ being a controlled area, it can accommodate admirably the holding of black bodies in singletons or small groups, as well as small groups of trainees ....

4). Saipan Training Station.

CIA maintains a field training station on the island of Saipan located approximately 160 miles northeast of Guam in the Marianas Islands. The installation is under Navy cover and is known as the Naval Technical Training Unit. The primary mission of the Saipan Training Station is to provide physical facilities and competent instructor personnel to fulfill a variety of training requirements including intelligence tradecraft, communications, counter-intelligence and psychological warfare techniques. Training is performed in support of CIA activities conducted throughout the Far East area.

In addition to the facilities described above, CIA maintains a small ship of approximately 500 tons' displacement and 140 feet in length. This vessel is used presently to provide surface transportation between Guam and Saipan. It has an American Captain and First Mate and a Philippine crew, and is operated under the cover of a commercial corporation with home offices in Baltimore, Maryland. Both the ship and the corporation have a potentially wider paramilitary application both in the Far East area and elsewhere.

#23: Cable on Diem's Treaty Request

Cablegram from the United States Embassy in Saigon to the State Department, Oct. 1, 1961. A copy of the message was sent to the commander in chief of Pacific forces.

Discussion with Felt and party, McGarr, Nolting yesterday Diem asked for bilateral defense treaty. Large and unexplained request. Serious. Put forward as result of Diem's fear of outcome of Laos situation, SVN vulnerability to increased infiltration, feelings that SEATO action would be inhibited by UK and France in the case of SVN as in Laos.

Nolting told Diem question had important angle and effect on SEATO. Major repeated to Thuan and believe he understands better than Diem some of thorny problems.

Fuller report of conversation with Diem will follow but would like to get quick preliminary reaction from Washington on this request.

Our reaction is that the request should be seriously and carefully treated to prevent feeling that U.S. is not serious in inten~ion to support SVN. But see major issues including overriding Article 19, Geneva Accords, possible ratification problems as well as effect on SEATO.

Diem's request arises from feeling that U.S. policy on Laos will expose his flank in infiltration and lead to large-scale hostilities in SVN. So seeking a stronger commitment than he thinks he has now through SEATO. Changing U.S. policy on Laos, especially SEATO decision to use force if necessary to protect SVN and Thailand, would relieve pressure for bilateral treaty.

#24: Note on a Plan for Intervention

Supplemental note to a paper entitled "Concept for Intervention in Viet-Nam," Oct. 11, 1961. According to the Pentagon history, the paper was drafted mainly by U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and was either a "talking paper" for a meeting that included Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara "or a revision put together later in the day, after the meeting."

As the basic paper indicates, the likelihood of massive DRV and Chicom intervention cannot be estimated with precision. The SNIE covers only the initial phase when action might be limited to 20-25,000 men. At later stages, when the JCS estimate that 40,000 U.S. forces will be needed to clean up the Viet Cong threat, the chances of such massive intervention might well become substantial, with the Soviets finding it a good opportunity to tie down major U.S. forces in a long action, perhaps as part of a multiprong action involving Berlin and such additional areas as Korea and Iran.

Because of this possibility of major Bloc intervention, the maximum possible force-needs must be frankly faced. Assuming present estimates of about 40,000 U.S. forces for the stated military objective in South Vietnam, plus 128,000 U.S. forces for meeting North Vietnam and Chicom intervention, the drain on U.S.-based reserve forces could be on the order of 3 or 4 divisions and other forces as well. The impact on naval capabilities for blockade plans (to meet Berlin) would also be major. In light of present Berlin contingency plans, and combat attrition, including scarce items of equipment, the initiation of the Vietnam action in itself should indicate a step-up in the present mobilization, possibly of major proportions.

#25: 1961 Request by South Vietnam for U.S. Combat Forces

Cablegram from United State Embassy in Saigon to the State Department, Oct. 13, 1961, on requests by Nguyen Dinh Thuan, Defense Minister of South Vietnam. Copies of this message were sent to Commander in Chief of Pacific forces and to the United States Embassies in Bangkok, Thailand, and Taipei, Taiwan.

Thuan in meeting October 13 made the following requests:

1. Extra squadron of AD-6 in lieu of proposed T-28's and delivery ASAP.

2. U.S. Civilian contract pilots for helicopters and C-47's for "non-combat" operations.

3. U.S. combat units or units to be introduced into SVN as "combat-trainer units". Part to be stationed in North near 17th Parallel to free ARVN forces there for anti-guerrilla action in high plateau. Also perhaps in several provincial seats in the highlands of Central Vietnam.

4. U.S. reaction to proposal to request Nationalist China to send one division of combat troops for operations in the Southwest.

Thuan referred to captured diary of VM officer killed in Central SVN, containing information on VM plans and techniques. Being analyzed, translated and would pass on. Said Diem in light of situation in Laos, infiltration into SVN, and JFK's interest as shown by sending Taylor, requested U.S. to urgently consider requests.

On U.S. combat trainer units, Nolting asked whether Diem's considered request, in view of repeated views opposed. Thuan so confirmed, Diem's views changed in light of worsening situation. Wanted a symbolic U.S. strength near 17th to prevent attacks there, free own forces there. Similar purpose station U.S. units in several provincial seats in central highlands, freeing ARVN ground forces there. Nolting said major requests on heels of Diem request for bilateral treaty. Nolting asked if in lieu of treaty. Thuan said first step quicker than treaty and time was of the essence. Thuan said token forces would satisfy SVN and would be better than treaty (Had evidently not thought through nor discussed with Diem).

Discussed ICC angle. Nolting mentioned value SVN previously attached to ICC presence. Thuan agreed, felt case could be made for introduction of U.S. units for guard duty not combat unless attacked. Could be put in such a way to preserve ICC in SVN. Nolting said doubted if compatable but could be explored (Mc- Garr and I call attention to two points: in view of proposed units, training function more a cover than reality; if send U.S. units should be sufficient strength, since VC attack likely).

On Chinat force, Thuan said Chiang had earlier given some indication (not too precise I gathered) of willingness. Thuan said GVN did not want to follow-up without getting U.S. reaction. Idea to use about 10,000 men in southwest as far from 17th as possible. Also intended to draft eligibles of Chinese origin into forces. Thuan thought perhaps Chinats could be introduced covertly, but on analyses gave this up. Nolting said he thought Chinats would want something out of deal, maybe political lift from introducing Chinat forces on Asia mainland (Nolting thinks trial balloon only).

Questions will undoubtedly be raised with Taylor. Obvious GVN losing no opportunity to ask for more support as a result of our greater interest and concern. But situation militarily and psychologically has moved to a point where serious and prompt consideration should be given.

(Note: Will be meeting on this in Admiral Heinz's office, 1330, 16 October to get reply out today. Applicable CINCPAC 140333, 140346)

#26: Cable from Taylor to Kennedy on Introduction of U.S. Troops

Cablegram from Baguio, the Philippines, by General TayLor to President Kennedy, Nov. 1, 1961.

This message is for the purpose of presenting my reasons for recommending the introduction of a U.S. military force into SVN. I have reached the conclusion that this is an essential action if we are to reverse the present downward trend of events in spite of a full recognition of the following disadvantages:

a. The strategic reserve of U.S. forces is presently so weak that we can ill afford any detachment of forces to a peripheral area of the Communist bloc where they will be pinned down for an uncertain duration.

b. Although U.S. prestige is already engaged in SVN, it will become more so by the sending of troops.

c. If the first contingent is not enough to accomplish the necessary results, it will be difficult to resist the pressure to reinforce. If the ultimate result sought is the closing of the frontiers and the clean-up of the insurgents within SVN, there is no limit to our possible commitment (unless we attack the source in Hanoi).

d. The introduction of U.S. forces may increase tensions and risk escalation into a major war in Asia.

On the other side of the argument, there can be no action so convincing of U.S. seriousness of purpose and hence so reassuring to the people and Government of SVN and to our other friends and allies in SEA as the introduction of U.S. forces into SVN. The views of indigenous and U.S. officials consulted on our trip were unanimous on this point. I have just seen Saigon 575 to State and suggest that it be read in connection with this message.

The size of the U.S. force introduced need not be great to provide the military presence necessary to produce the desired effect on national morale in SVN and on international opinion. A bare token, however, will not suffice; it must have a significant value. The kinds of tasks which it might undertake which would have a significant value are suggested in Baguio 0005. They are:

(a) Provide a U.S. military presence capable of raising national morale and of showing to SEA the seriousness of the U.S. intent to resist a Communist takeover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The risks of backing into a major Asian war by way of SVN are present but are not impressive. NVN is extremely vulnerable to conventional bombing, a weakness which should be exploited diplomatically in convincing Hanoi to layoff SVN. Both the D.R.V. and the Chicoms would face severe logistical difficulties in trying to maintain strong forces in the field in SEA, difficulties which we share but by no means to the same degree. There is no case for fearing a mass onslaught of Communist manpower into SVN and its neighboring states, particularly if our airpower is allowed a free hand against logistical targets. Finally, the starvation conditions in China should discourage Communist leaders there from being militarily venturesome for some time to come.

By the foregoing line of reasoning, I have reached the conclusion that the introduction of [word illegible] military Task Force without delay offers definitely more advantage than it creates risks and difficulties. In fact, I do not believe that our program to save SVN will succeed without it. If the concept is approved, the exact size and composition of the force should be determined by Sec Def in consultation with the JCS, the Chief MAAG and CINCPAC. My own feeling is that the initial size should not exceed about 8000, of which a preponderant number would be in logistical-type units. After acquiring experience in operating in SVN, this initial force will require reorganization and adjustment to the local scene.

As CINCPAC will point out, any forces committed to SVN will need to be replaced by additional forces to his area from the strategic reserve in the V.S. Also, any troops to SVN are in addition to those which may be required to execute SEATO Plan 5 in Laos. Both facts should be taken into account in current considerations of the FY 1963 budget which bear upon the permanent increase which should be made in the U.S. military establishment to maintain our strategic position for the long pull.

#27: Taylor's Summary of Findings on His Mission to South Vietnam

Cablegram tram Baguio, the Philippines, by Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Presidential military adviser, to Mr. Kennedy, Nov. 1, 1961.

1. Transmitted herewith are a summary of the fundamental conclusions of my group and my personal recommendations in response to the letter of the President to me dated 13 October 1961. At our meeting next Friday I hope to be allowed to explain the thinking which lies behind them. At that time I shall transmit our entire report which will provide detailed support for the recommendations and will serve as a working paper for the interested departments and agencies.

2. It is concluded that:

a. Communist strategy aims to gain control of Southeast Asia by methods of subversion and guerrilla war which by-pass conventional U.S. and indigenous strength on the ground. The interim Communist goal -- en route to total take-over- -- ppears to be a neutral Southeast Asia, detached from U.S. protection. This strategy is well on the way to success in Vietnam.

b. In Vietnam "and Southeast Asia" there is a double crisis in confidence: doubt that U.S. is determined to save Southeast Asia; doubt that Diem's methods can frustrate and defeat Communist purposes and methods. The Vietnamese (and Southeast Asians) will undoubtedly draw -- rightly or wrongly -- definitive conclusions in coming weeks and months concerning the probable outcome and will adjust their behavior accordingly. What the U.S. does or fails to do will be decisive to the end result.

c. Aside from the morale factor, the Vietnamese Government is caught in interlocking circles of bad tactics and bad administrative arrangements which pin their forces on the defensive in ways which permit a relatively small Viet-Cong force (about onetenth the size of the GVN regulars) to create conditions of frustration and terror certain to lead to a political crisis, if a positive turning point is not soon achieved. The following recommendations are designed to achieve that favorable turn, to avoid a further deterioration in the situation in South Vietnam, and eventually to contain and eliminate the threat to its independence.

3. It is recommended:


a. That upon request from the Government of Vietnam (GVN) to come to its aid in resisting the increasing aggressions of the Viet-Cong and in repairing the ravages of the Delta flood which, in combination, threaten the lives of its citizens and the security of the country, the U.S. Government offer to join the GVN in a massive joint effort as a part of a total mobilization of GVN resources to cope with both the Viet-Cong (VC) and the ravages of the flood. The U.S. representatives will participate actively in this effort, particularly in the fields of government administration, military plans and operations, intelligence, and flood relief, going beyond the advisory role which they have observed in the past.


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

(1) The U.S. Government will be prepared to provide individual administrators for insertion into the governmental machinery of South Vietnam in types and numbers to be worked out with President Diem.

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

(3) The U.S. Government will engage in a joint survey of the conditions in the provinces to assess the social, political, intelligence, and military factors bearing on the prosecution of the counter-insurgency in order to reach a common estimate of these factors and a common determination of how to deal with them. As this survey will consume time, it should not hold back the immediate actions which are clearly needed regardless of its outcome.

(4) A joint effort will be made to free the Army for mobile, offensive operations. This effort will be based upon improving the training and equipping of the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps, relieving the regular Army of static missions, raising the level of the mobility of Army forces by the provision of considerably more helicopters and light aviation, and organizing a Border Ranger Force for a long-term campaign on the Laotian border against the Viet-Cong infiltrators. The U.S. Government will support this effort with equipment and with military units and personnel to do those tasks which the Armed Forces of Vietnam cannot perform in time. Such tasks include air reconnaissance and photography, airlift (beyond the present capacity of SVN forces), special intelligence, and air-ground support techniques.

(5) The U.S. Government will assist the GVN in effecting surveillance and control over the coastal waters and inland waterways, furnishing such advisors, operating personnel and small craft as may be necessary for quick and effective operations.

(6) The MAAG, Vietnam, will be reorganized and increased in size as may be necessary by the implementation of these recommendations.

(7) The U.S. Government will offer to introduce into South Vietnam a military Task Force to operate under U.S. control for the following purposes:

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

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

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

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

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

(8) The U.S. Government will review its economic aid program to take into account the needs of flood relief and to give priority to those projects in support of the expanded counter-insurgency program.

#28: Evaluation and Conclusions of Taylor's Report on Vietnam

Excerpts from General Taylor's report, Nov. 3, 1961, on his mission to South Vietnam for President Kennedy.


. Following are the specific categories where the introduction of U.S. working advisors or working military units are suggested ... an asterisk indicating where such operations are, to some degree, under way.

-- A high-level government advisor or advisors. General Lansdale has been requested by Diem; and it may be wise to envisage a limited number of Americans -- acceptable to Diem as well as to us -- in key ministries ....

-- A Joint U.S.-Vietnamese Military Survey, down to the provincial level, in each of three corps areas, to make recommendations with respect to intelligence, command and control, more economical and effective passive defense, the build-up of a reserve for offensive purposes, military-province-chief relations, etc. . . .

-- Joint planning of offensive operations, including border control operations. [*] ...

-- Intimate liaison with the Vietnamese Central Intelligence Organizations (C.I.O.) with each of the seven intelligence [rest of sentence illegible].

-- Jungle Jim ....

-- Counter infiltration operations in Laos. [*] ...

-- Increased covert offensive operations in North as well as in Laos and South Vietnam. [*] ...

-- The introduction, under MAAG operational control, of three helicopter squadrons -- one for each corps area -- and the provision of more light aircraft, as the need may be established ....

-- A radical increase in U.S. trainers at every level from the staff colleges, where teachers are short -- to the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps, where a sharp expansion in competence may prove the key to mobilizing a reserve for offensive operations ....

-- The introduction of engineering and logistical elements within the proposed U.S. military task force to work in the flood area within the Vietnamese plan, on both emergency and longer term reconstruction tasks ....

-- A radical increase in U.S. special force teams in Vietnam: to work with the Vietnamese Ranger Force proposed for the border area . . . ; to assist in unit training, including training of Clandestine Action Service ....

-- Increase the MAAG support for the Vietnamese Navy. [*] ...

-- Introduction of U.S. Naval and/or Coast Guard personnel to assist in coastal and river surveillance and control, until Vietnamese naval capabilities can be improved ....

-- Reconsideration of the role of air power, leading to more effective utilization of assets now available, including release from political control of the 14 D-6 aircraft, institution of close-support techniques, and better employment of available weapons ....

To execute this program of limited partnership requires a change in the charter, the spirit, and the organization of the MAAG in South Vietnam. It must be shifted from an advisory group to something nearer -- but not quite -- an operational headquarters in a theater of war. ... The U.S. should become a limited partner in the war, avoiding formalized advice on the one hand, trying to run the war, on the other. Such a transition from advice to partnership has been made in recent months, on a smaller scale, by the MAAG in Laos.

Among the many consequences of this shift would be the rapid build-up of an intelligence capability both to identify operational targets for the Vietnamese and to assist Washington in making a sensitive and reliable assessment of the progress of the war. The basis for such a unit already exists in Saigon in the Intelligence Evaluation Center. It must be quickly expanded ....

In Washington, as well, intelligence and back-up operations must be put on a quasi-wartime footing ....


The U.S. action proposed in this report -- involving as it does the overt lifting of the MAAG ceiling, substantial encadrement and the introduction of limited U.S. forces -- requires that the United States also prepare for contingencies that might arise from the enemy's reaction. The initiative proposed here should not be undertaken unless we are prepared to deal with any escalation the communists might choose to impose. Specifically we must be prepared to act swiftly under these three circumstances: an attempt to seize and to hold the Pleiku-Kontum area; a political crisis in which the communists might attempt to use their forces around Saigon to capture the city in the midst of local confusion; an undertaking of overt major hostilities by North Vietnam.

As noted earlier, the present contingency plans of CINCPAC must embrace the possibility both of a resumption of the communist offensive in Laos and these Vietnamese contingency situations. Taken together, the contingencies in Southeast Asia which we would presently choose to meet without the use of nuclear weapons appear to require somewhat more balanced ground, naval, and air strength in reserve in the U.S. than we now have available, so long as we maintain the allocation of the six divisions for the Berlin crisis.

Therefore, one of the major issues raised by this report is the need to develop the reserve strength in the U.S. establishment required to cover action in Southeast Asia up to the nuclear threshold in that area, as it is now envisaged. The call up of additional support forces may be required.

In our view, nothing is more calculated to sober the enemy and to discourage escalation in the face of the limited initiatives proposed here than the knowledge that the United States has prepared itself soundly to deal with aggression in Southeast Asia at any level.

#29: Conclusions of McNamara on Report by General Taylor

Memorandum for the President from Secretary of Defense McNamara, Nov. 8, 1961, as provided in the Pentagon analysts' narrative.

The basic issue framed by the Taylor Report is whether the U.S. shall:

a. Commit itself to the clear objective of preventing the fall of South Vietnam to Communism, and

b. Support this commitment by necessary immediate military actions and preparations for possible later actions.

The Joint Chiefs, Mr. Gilpatric and I have reached the following conclusions:

1. The fall of South Vietnam to Communism would lead to the fairly rapid extension of Communist control, or complete accommodation to Communism, in the rest of mainland Southeast Asia and in Indonesia. The strategic implications worldwide, particularly in the Orient, would be extremely serious.

2. The chances are against, probably sharply against, preventing that fall by any measures short of the introduction of U.S. forces on a substantial scale. We accept General Taylor's judgment that the various measures proposed by him short of this are useful but will not in themselves do the job of restoring confidence and setting Diem on the way to winning his fight.

3. The introduction of a U.S. force of the magnitude of an initial 8,000 men in a flood relief context will be of great help to Diem. However, it will not convince the other side (whether the shots are called from Moscow, Peiping, or Hanoi) that we mean business. Moreover, it probably will not tip the scales decisively. We would be almost certain to get increasingly mired down in an inconclusive struggle.

4. The other side can be convinced we mean business only if we accompany the initial force introduction by a clear commitment to the full objective stated above, accompanied by a warning through some channel to Hanoi that continued support of the Viet Cong will lead to punitive retaliation against North Vietnam.

5. If we act in this way, the ultimate possible extent of our military commitment must be faced. The struggle may be prolonged and Hanoi and Peiping may intervene overtly. In view of the logistic difficulties faced by the other side, I believe we can assume that the maximum U.S. forces required on the ground in Southeast Asia will not exceed 6 divisions, or about 205,000 men (CINCPAC Plan 32-59, Phase IV). Our military posture is, or with the addition of more National Guard or regular Army divisions, can be made, adequate to furnish these forces without serious interference with our present Berlin plans.

6. To accept the stated objective is of course a most serious decision. Military force is not the only element of what must be a most carefully coordinated set of actions. Success will depend on factors many of which are not within our control -- notably the conduct of Diem himself and other leaders in the area. Laos will remain a major problem. The domestic political implications of accepting the objective are also grave, although it is our feeling that the country will respond better to a firm initial position than to courses of action that lead us in only gradually, and that in the meantime are sure to involve casualties. The overall effect on Moscow and Peiping will need careful weighing and may well be mixed; however, permitting South Vietnam to fall can only strengthen and encourage them greatly.

7. In sum:

a. We do not believe major units of U.S. forces should be introduced in South Vietnam unless we are willing to make an affirmative decision on the issue stated at the start of this memorandum.

b. We are inclined to recommend that we do commit the U.S. to the clear objective of preventing the fall of South Vietnam to Communism and that we support this commitment by the necessary military actions.

c. If such a commitment is agreed upon, we support the recommendations of General Taylor as the first steps toward its fulfillment.

#30: 1961 Rusk-McNamara Report to Kennedy on South Vietnam

Excerpts from memorandum for President Kennedy from Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara, Nov. 11, 1961, as provided by the Pentagon study.

1. United States National Interests in South Viet-Nam.

The deteriorating situation in South Viet-Nam requires attention to the nature and scope of United States national interests in that country. The loss of South Viet-Nam to Communism would involve the transfer of a nation of 20 million people from the free world to the Communist bloc. The loss of South Viet-Nam would make pointless any further discussion about the importance of Southeast Asia to the free world; we would have to face the near certainty that the remainder of Southeast Asia and Indonesia would move to a complete accommodation with Communism, if not formal incorporation with the Communist bloc. The United States, as a member of SEATO, has commitments with respect to South Viet-Nam under the Protocol to the SEATO Treaty. Additionally, in a formal statement at the conclusion session of the 1954 Geneva Conference, the United States representative stated that the United States "would view any renewal of the aggression . . . with grave concern and seriously threatening international peace and security."

The loss of South Viet-Nam to Communism would not only destroy SEATO but would undermine the credibility of American commitments elsewhere. Further, loss of South Viet-Nam would stimulate bitter domestic controversies in the United States and would be seized upon by extreme elements to divide the country and harass the Administration ....

3. The United States' Objective in South Viet-Nam.

The United States should commit itself to the clear objective of preventing the fall of South Viet-Nam to Communist [sic]. The basic means for accomplishing this objective must be to put the Government of South Viet-Nam into a position to win its own war against the Guerillas. We must insist that that Government itself take the measures necessary for that purpose in exchange for large-scale United States assistance in the military, economic and political fields. At the same time we must recognize that it will probably not be possible for the GVN to win this war as long as the flow of men and supplies from North Viet-Nam continues unchecked and the guerillas enjoy a safe sanctuary in neighboring territory.

We should be prepared to introduce United States combat forces if that should become necessary for success. Dependent upon the circumstances, it may also be necessary for United States forces to strike at the source of the aggression in North Viet-Nam.

4. The Use of United States Forces in South Viet-Nam.

The commitment of United States forces to South Viet-Nam involves two different categories: (A) Units of modest size required for the direct support of South Viet-Namese military effort, such as communications, helicopter and other forms of airlift, reconnaissance aircraft, naval patrols, intelligence units, etc., and (B) larger organized units with actual or potential direct military mission. Category (A) should be introduced as speedily as possible. Category (B) units pose a more serious problem in that they are much more significant from the point of view of domestic and international political factors and greatly increase the probabilities of Communist bloc escalation. Further, the employment of United States combat forces (in the absence of Communist bloc escalation) involves a certain dilemma: if there is a strong South- Vietnamese effort, they may not be needed; if there is not such an effort, United States forces could not accomplish their mission in the midst of an apathetic or hostile population. Under present circumstances, therefore, the question of injecting United States and SEATO combat forces should in large part be considered as a contribution to the morale of the South Vietnamese in their own effort to do the principal job themselves.

5. Probable Extent of the Commitment of United States Forces.

If we commit Category (B) forces to South Viet-Nam, the ultimate possible extent of our military commitment in Southeast Asia must be faced. The struggle may be prolonged, and Hanoi and Peiping may overtly intervene. It is the view of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, in the light of the logistic difficulties faced by the other side, we can assume that the maximum United States forces required on the ground in Southeast Asia would not exceed six divisions, or about 205,000 men (CINCPAC Plan 32/59 PHASE IV). This would be in addition to local forces and such SEATO forces as may be engaged. It is also the view of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that our military posture is, or, with the addition of more National Guard or regular Army divisions, can be made, adequate to furnish these forces and support them in action without serious interference with our present Berlin plans ....

In the light of the foregoing, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense recommend that:

1. We now take the decision to commit ourselves to the objective of preventing the fall of South Viet-Nam to Communism and that, in doing so, we recognize that the introduction of United States and other SEATO forces may be necessary to achieve this objective. (However, if it is necessary to commit outside forces to achieve the foregoing objective our decision to introduce United States forces should not be contingent upon unanimous SEATO agreement thereto.)

2. The Department of Defense be prepared with plans for the use of United States forces in South Viet-Nam under one or more of the following purposes:

(a) Use of a significant number of United States forces to signify United States determination to defend Viet-Nam and to boost South Viet-Nam morale.

(b) Use of substantial United States forces to assist in suppressing Viet Cong insurgency short of engaging in detailed counter-guerrilla operations but including relevant operations in North Viet-Nam.

(c) Use of United States forces to deal with the situation if there is organized Communist military intervention.

3. We immediately undertake the following actions in support of the GVN:

... (c) Provide the GVN with small craft, including such United States uniformed advisers and operating personnel as may be necessary for quick and effective operations in effecting surveillance and control over coastal waters and inland waterways ....

(e) Provide such personnel and equipment as may be necessary to improve the military-political intelligence system beginning at the provincial level and extending upward through the Government and the armed forces to the Central Intelligence Organization.

(f) Provide such new terms of reference, reorganization and additional personnel for United States military forces as are required for increased United States participation in the direction and control of GVN military operations and to carry out the other increased responsibilities which accrue to MAAG under these recommendations ....

(i) Provide individual administrators and advisers for insertion into the Governmental machinery of South Viet-Nam in types and numbers to be agreed upon by the two Governments ....

5. Very shortly before the arrival in South Viet-Nam of the first increments of United States military personnel and equipment proposed under 3., above, that would exceed the Geneva Accord ceilings, publish the "Jorden report" as a United States "white paper," transmitting it as simultaneously as possible to the Governments of all countries with which we have diplomatic relations, including the Communist states.

6. Simultaneous with the publication of the "Jorden report," release an exchange of letters between Diem and the President.

(a) Diem's letter would include: reference to the DRV violations of Geneva Accords as set forth in the October 24 GVN letter to the ICC and other documents; pertinent references to GVN statements with respect to its intent to observe the Geneva Accords; reference to its need for flood relief and rehabilitation; reference to previous United States aid and the compliance hitherto by both countries with the Geneva Accords; reference to the USG statement at the time the Geneva Accords were signed; the necessity of now exceeding some provisions of the Accords in view of the DRV violations thereof; the lack of aggressive intent with respect to the DRV; GVN intent to return to strict compliance with the Geneva Accords as soon as the DRV violations ceased; and request for additional United States assistance in framework foregoing policy. The letter should also set forth in appropriate general terms steps Diem has taken and is taking to reform Governmental structure.

(b) The President's reply would be responsive to Diem's request for additional assistance and acknowledge and agree to Diem's statements on the intent promptly to return to strict compliance with the Geneva Accords as soon as DRV violations have ceased. . . .

#31: Memo from Joint Chiefs Urging a Greater Role in South Vietnam

Excerpts from memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Jan. 13, 1962. On Jan. 27, 1962, Mr. McNamara sent the memorandum to President Kennedy with a covering letter that said in part: "The Joint Chiefs of Staff have asked that the attached memorandum ... be brought to your attention. The memorandum requires no action by you at this time. 1 am not prepared to endorse the experience with our present program in South Vietnam."

3. Military Considerations ....

a. Early Eventualities -- Loss of the Southeast Asian Mainland would have an adverse impact on our military strategy and would markedly reduce our ability in limited war by denying us air, land and sea bases, by forcing greater intelligence effort with lesser results, by complicating military lines of communication and by the introduction of more formidable enemy forces in the area. Air access and access to 5,300 miles of mainland coastline would be outflanked, the last significant United Kingdom military strength in Asia would be eliminated with the loss of Singapore and Malaya and U.S. military influence in that area, short of war, would be difficult to exert.

b. Possible Eventualities -- Of equal importance to the immediate losses are the eventualities which could follow the loss of the Southeast Asian mainland. All of the Indonesian archipelago could come under the domination and control of the USSR and would become a communist base posing a threat against Australia and New Zealand. The Sino-Soviet Bloc would have control of the eastern access to the Indian Ocean. The Philippines and Japan could be pressured to assume at best, a neutralist role, thus eliminating two of our major bases in the Western Pacific. Our lines of defense then would be pulled north to Korea, Okinawa and Taiwan resulting in the subsequent overtaking of our lines of communications in a limited war. India's ability to remain neutral would be jeopardized and, as the Bloc meets success, its concurrent stepped-up activities to move into and control Africa can be expected ....

. . . 13. Three salient factors are of the greatest importance if the eventual introduction of U.S. forces is required.

a. Any war in the Southeast Asian Mainland will be a peninsula and island-type of campaign -- a mode of warfare in which all elements of the Armed Forces of the United States have gained a wealth of experience and in which we have excelled both in World War II and Korea.

b. Study of the problem clearly indicates that the Communists are limited in the forces they can sustain in war in that area because of natural logistic and transportation problems.

c. Our present world military posture is such that we now have effective forces capable of implementing existing contingency plans for Southeast Asia without affecting to an unacceptable degree our capability to conduct planned operations in Europe relating to Berlin or otherwise.

14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that in any consideration of further action which may be required because of possible unacceptable results obtained despite Diem's full cooperation and the effective employment of South Vietnam armed forces, you again consider the recommendation provided you by JCSM-320-61, dated 10 May 1961, that a decision be made to deploy suitable U.S. forces to South Vietnam sufficient to accomplish the following:

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

b. Release Vietnamese forces from advanced and static defense positions to permit their future commitment to counterinsurgency actions;

c. Assist in training the Vietnamese forces;

d. Provide a nucleus for the support of any additional U.S. or SEATO military operations in Southeast Asia; and

e. Indicate the firmness of our intent to all Asian nations.

We are of the opinion that failure to do so under such circumstances will merely extend the date when such action must be taken and will make our ultimate task proportionately more difficult.

#32: State Department Study in Late '62 on Prospects in South Vietnam

Excerpts from research memorandum from Roger Hilsman, director of the State Department Bureau of intelligence and Research, to Secretary of State Rusk, Dec. 3, 1962. The memorandum bore the title "The Situation and Short-Term Prospects in South Vietnam" and a footnote said that the report was based on information available through Nov. 12, 1962.

. . . President Ngo Dinh Diem and other leading Vietnamese as well as many U.S. officials in South Vietnam apparently believe that the tide is now turning in the struggle against Vietnamese Communist (Viet Cong) insurgency and subversion. This degree of optimism is premature. At best, it appears that the rate of deterioration has decelerated with improvement, principally in the security sector, reflecting substantially increased U.S. assistance and GVN implementation of a broad counterinsurgency program.

The GVN has given priority to implementing a basic strategic concept featuring the strategic hamlet and systematic pacification programs. It has paid more attention to political, economic, and social counterinsurgency measures and their coordination with purely military measures. Vietnamese military and security forces -- now enlarged and of higher quality -- are significantly more offensive-minded and their counter guerilla tactical capabilities are greatly improved. Effective GVN control of the countryside has been extended slightly. In some areas where security has improved peasant attitudes toward the government appear also to have improved.

As a result, the Viet Cong has had to modify its tactics and perhaps set back its timetable. But the "national liberation war" has not abated nor has the Viet Cong been weakened. On the contrary, the Viet Cong has expanded the size and enhanced the capability and organization of its guerilla force -- now estimated at about 23,000 in elite fighting personnel, plus some 100,000 irregulars and sympathizers. It still controls about 20 percent of the villages and about 9 percent of the rural population, and has varying degrees of influence among additional 47 percent of the villages. Viet Cong control and communication lines to the peasant have not been seriously weakened and the guerillas have thus been able to maintain good intelligence and a high degree of initiative, mobility, and striking power. Viet Cong influence has almost certainly improved in urban areas not only through subversion and terrorism but also because of its propaganda appeal to the increasingly frustrated non-Communist anti- Diem elements.

The internal political situation is considerably more difficult to assess. Diem has strengthened his control of the bureaucracy and the military establishment. He has delegated a little more authority than in the past, and has become increasingly aware of the importance of the peasantry to the counterinsurgency effort. Nevertheless, although there are fewer reports of discontent with Diem's leadership within official circles and the civilian elite, there are still many indications of continuing serious concern, particularly with Diem's direction of the counterinsurgency effort. There are also reports that important military and civilian officials continue to participate in coup plots. Oppositionists, critics, and dissenters outside the government appear to be increasingly susceptible to neutralist, pro-Communist, and possibly anti-U.S. sentiments. They are apparently placing increased reliance on clandestine activities.

The Viet Cong is obviously prepared for a long struggle and can be expected to maintain the present pace and diversity of its insurgent-subversive effort. During the next month or so, it may step up its military effort in reaction to the growing GVN-U.S. response. Hanoi can also be expected to increase its efforts to legitimatize its "National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam" (NFLSV) and to prepare further groundwork for a "liberation government" in South Vietnam. On the present evidence, the Communists are not actively moving toward neutralization of South Vietnam in the Laos pattern, although they could seek to do so later. Elimination, even significant reduction, of the Communist insurgency will almost certainly require several years. In either case, a considerably greater effort by the GVN, as well as continuing U.S. assistance, is crucial. If there is continuing improvement in security conditions, Diem should be able to alleviate concern and boost morale within the bureaucracy and the military establishment. But the GVN will not be able to consolidate its military successes into permanent political gains and to evoke the positive support of the peasantry unless it gives more emphasis to non-military aspects of the counterinsurgency program, integrates the strategic hamlet program with an expanded systematic pacification program, and appreciably modified military tactics (particularly those relating to large-unit actions and tactical use of air-power and artillery). Failure to do so might increase militant opposition among the peasants and their positive identification with the Viet Cong.

A coup could occur at any time, but would be more likely if the fight against the Communists goes badly, if the Viet Cong launches a series of successful and dramatic operations, or if Vietnamese army casualties increase appreciably over a protracted period. The coup most likely to succeed would be one with non-Communist leadership and support, involving middle and top echelon military and civilian officials. For a time at least, the serious disruption of government leadership resulting from a coup would probably halt and possibly reverse the momentum of the government's counterinsurgency effort. The role of the U.S. can be extremely important in restoring this momentum and in averting widespread fighting and a serious internal power struggle ...
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Chapter 4: The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem: May-November, 1963

Highlights of the Period: May-November, 1963

The Kennedy Administration's "complicity" in the 1963 overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem is documented in the Pentagon study, which says that this episode "inadvertently deepened" U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

Here, in chronological order, are highlights of this period:


Buddhist protests against the Diem government flared into violence after government troops attacked demonstrators in Hue.


The Saigon regime, violating its pledge to the U.S. that it would seek to conciliate the Buddhists, staged midnight raids on Buddhist pagodas.

The first request for U.S. support of a coup was made to a C.I.A. agent.

George W. Ball, Acting Secretary of State, told Henry Cabot Lodge, the new U.S. Ambassador, that Diem must "remove" Nhu and his wife or "we can no longer support Diem." He said that "appropriate military commanders" could be given a pledge of "direct support in any interim period of breakdown central government mechanism." The Ambassador was authorized to threaten a cut-off of U.S. aid unless the jailed Buddhists were released.

Lodge replied that the chances of "Diem's meeting our demands are virtually nil." He added that "by making them, we give Nhu chance to forestall" a coup, and suggested that "we go straight to generals with our demands."

C.I.A. agents made contact with two plotters.

CoL Lucien Conein, a top C.I.A. agent, met with Lieut. Gen. Duong Van Minh, a leader of the plot.

Lodge, replying to a query from President Kennedy, said that "U.S. prestige" was publicly committed; he added, "there is no turning back ... "

A National Security meeting "reaffirmed basic course." The U.S. "will support a coup which has a good chance of succeeding."

President Kennedy, in a private message to Lodge, pledged "everything possible to help you conclude this operation successfully," but he asked to be given continuing reports on the situation to allow a possible "reverse" signal.

The Ambassador reported a breakdown in the conspiracy.

At a National Security Council meeting, Paul M. Kattenburg, the head of the Vietnam Interdepartmental Working Group, urged U.S. disengagement. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said that the U.S. would not pull out "until the war is won," and "will not run a coup."


Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed after meeting with Diem that the U.S. "work with the Diem regime but not support it." They urged economic pressures.

Conein and other C.I.A. agents renewed their contacts with Minh and other plotters. Lodge recommended assurances that the U.S. would not "thwart" coup.

The President accepted the McNamara-Taylor proposals, including a series of economic cut-offs. The study says this "leaves ambiguous" the question of whether the aid suspension is meant as "green light for coup."

The aid cut-offs began.

The White House messages to the Ambassador stressed "surveillance and readiness," not "active promotion" of a coup. The study says they stressed also the desire for the "plausibility of denial" of U.S. involvement.

The coup was canceled. Its leader cited as the reason the attitude of Gen. Paul D. Harkins, the U.S. military commander in Saigon. Harkins denied "trying to thwart" a coup but said that he "would not discuss coups that were not my business."

Doubts about the coup were revived in Washington, the study says. The White House wanted the "option of judging and warning on any plan with poor prospects of success."

Lodge opposed any move to "pour cold water" on the plot. The White House told Lodge to "discourage" the plot if quick success seemed unlikely. Lodge replied that the U.S. was unable to "delay or discourage a coup."


The coup proceeded on schedule. Diem, on the phone with Lodge, asked about the "attitude of the U.S." Lodge replied that he was not "well enough informed" to say, and told him: "If I can do anything for your personal safety, please call me."

The Pentagon study says that Diem finally accepted the offer of safe-conduct out of the country made by the coup's leaders. He and his brother were shot to death by armored units.

Chapter 4: The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem: May-November, 1963

by Hedrick Smith

The Pentagon's secret study of the Vietnam war discloses that President Kennedy knew and approved of plans for the military coup d'etat that overthrew President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

"Our complicity in his overthrow heightened our responsibilities and our commitment" in Vietnam, the study finds.

In August and October of 1963, the narrative recounts, the United States gave its support to a cabal of army generals bent on removing the controversial leader, whose rise to power Mr. Kennedy had backed in speeches in the middle nineteen-fifties and who had been the anchor of American policy in Vietnam for nine years.

The coup, one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the American involvement in Vietnam, was a watershed. As the Pentagon study observes, it was a time when Washington -- with the Diem regime gone -- could have reconsidered its entire commitment to South Vietnam and decided to disengage.

At least two Administration officials advocated disengagement but, according to the Pentagon study, it "was never seriously considered a policy alternative because of the assumption that an independent, non-Communist SVN was too important a strategic interest to abandon."

The effect, according to this account, was that the United States, discovering after the coup that the war against the Vietcong had been going much worse than officials previously thought, felt compelled to do more -- rather than less -- for Saigon. By supporting the anti-Diem coup, the analyst asserts, "the U.S. inadvertently deepened its involvement. The inadvertence is the key factor."

According to the Pentagon account of the 1963 events in Saigon, Washington did not originate the anti-Diem coup, nor did American forces intervene in any way, even to try to prevent the assassinations of Mr. Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, who, as the chief Diem political adviser, had accumulated immense power. Popular discontent with the Diem regime focused on Mr. Nhu and his wife.

But for weeks -- and with the White House informed every step of the way -- the American mission in Saigon maintained secret contacts with the plotting generals through one of the Central Intelligence Agency's most experienced and versatile operatives, an Indochina veteran, Lieut. Col. Lucien Conein. He first landed in Vietnam in 1944 by parachute for the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime forerunner of the C.I.A.

So trusted by the Vietnamese generals was Colonel Conein that he was in their midst at Vietnamese General Staff headquarters as they launched the coup. Indeed, on Oct. 25, a week earlier, in a cable to McGeorge Bundy, the President's special assistant for national security, Ambassador Lodge had occasion to describe Colonel Conein of the C.I.A. -- referring to the agency, in code terminology, as C.A.S. -- as the indispensable man:

"C.A.S. has been punctilious in carrying out my instructions. I have personally approved each meeting between General Don [one of three main plotters] and Conein who has carried out my orders in each instance explicitly ....

"Conein, as you know, is a friend of some 18 years' standing with General Don, and General Don has expressed extreme reluctance to deal with anyone else. I do not believe the involvement of another American in close contact with the generals would be productive." [See Document # 52.]

So closely did the C.I.A. work with the generals, official documents reveal, that it provided them with vital intelligence about the arms and encampments of pro-Diem military forces after Mr. Lodge had authorized C.I.A. participation in tactical planning of the coup.

So intimately tied to the conspiracy did the Ambassador himself become that he offered refuge to the families of the generals if their plot failed -- and he obtained Washington's approval. Near the end, he also sent a message to Washington seeking authority to put up the money for bribes to win over officers still loyal to President Diem. [See Document # 57.]

The fear of failure -- fed by bitterly conflicting advice from Ambassador Lodge and Gen. Paul D. Harkins, chief of the American Military Assistance Command in Saigon -- dogged President Kennedy to the end.

In late August, with a coup by the generals expected any hour, President Kennedy sent a private message to Ambassador Lodge. Possibly thinking back to the collapse of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba he said: "I know from experience that failure is more destructive than an appearance of indecision .... When we go, we must go to win, but it will be better to change our minds than fail."

In his Aug. 30 cablegram, obtained by The New York Times along with the Pentagon study, the President also pledged "We will do all that we can to help you conclude this operation successfully."

On Oct. 30, after the plot had been postponed and later revived, the White House cabled Mr. Lodge with instructions to delay further any coup that did not have "a high prospect of success." But it left the ultimate judgment up to the Ambassador and asserted that once a coup "under responsible leadership" had begun, "it is in the interest of the U.S. Government that it should succeed." [See Document #56.]

The conclusions of the Pentagon study run contrary to the denial of American involvement by Ambassador Lodge in a press interview on June 29, 1964, and the impression given by the more carefully worded disavowals of American responsibility published in the memoirs of some Kennedy Administration officials.

"For the military coup d'etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility," the Pentagon account asserts.

"Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government. In October we cut off aid to Diem in a direct rebuff, giving a green light to the generals. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government."

The intrigues of the Vietnamese generals and of Mr. Nhu have largely been recounted before. Two added elements emerge from the Pentagon study: the step-by-step American collusion with the conspiracy, revealed previously only in shadowy outline; and the feud inside the American Government that brought it close to paralysis at decisive moments.

For if the Diem regime was a house divided against itself, so was the Kennedy Administration.

In Saigon, the two chief antagonists were Ambassador Lodge, considered even by admirers an aloof, shrewd Massachusetts Brahmin politician; and General Harkins, an affable, athletic cavalry officer who had been a protege of the World War II tank commander, Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, 3d.

As the Pentagon study recounts it, the Ambassador quickly became a partisan of the anti-Diem plot, while General Harkins resented what he felt would be shabby treatment of President Diem. "I would suggest we try not to change horses too quickly," the general declared in a cable to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Oct. 30, less than 48 hours before the coup. [See Document # 54.]

"After all, rightly or wrongly, we have backed Diem for eight long hard years. To me it seems incongruous now to get him down, kick him around and get rid of him. The U.S. has been his mother superior and father confessor since he's been in office and he leaned on us heavily."

The Ambassador and the general clashed at almost every juncture on almost every major issue and their controversy reverberated at the highest levels of government in Washington.

At one point, the study relates, the two men even relayed contradictory messages to the plotters. Subsequently, Ambassador Lodge held such tight control over the conspiratorial maneuvering that General Harkins protested to Washington that he was being kept in the dark.

Ultimately, the Pentagon narrative shows, it was Mr. Lodge -- a supremely self-confident ambassador, a former Republican vice-presidential nominee with independent political power, firm in his views, jealous of his ambassadorial prerogatives, intent on asserting his full authority -- who exerted critical influence on the Government.

"Political Decay"

Until the eruption of Buddhist demonstrations against the Diem regime in May, 1963, much of the American public was oblivious to the "political decay" in Vietnam described in the Pentagon account: the atmosphere of suspicion, the pervasive but latent disaffection with the autocratic Diem regime, the taint of corruption, the suppressed discontent in the Army.

In America, the early months of 1963 were a season of bullish public pronouncements about the war. In his State of the Union address on Jan. 14, President Kennedy declared that the "spearpoint of aggression has been blunted in Vietnam" while Adm. Harry D. Felt, commander in chief of Pacific forces, predicted victory within three years.

Although this reflected the view prevailing among policymakers, a national intelligence estimate on April 17 offered a less glowing picture. Provided that outside help to the Vietcong was not increased, the intelligence paper estimated that the guerrillas could be "contained militarily" but added that there was still no persuasive evidence that the enemy had been "grievously hurt" by the allied war efforts. Conclusion: "The situation remains fragile."

Moreover, as the Pentagon account recalls, military officers had twice tried to kill President Diem -- in November, 1960, and again in February, 1962. Deeply distrustful of the army, the South Vietnamese President had placed loyal favorites in sensitive posts commanding troops around Saigon, established a trusted network of military chiefs in all provinces and stripped potential challengers and malcontents of troop commands.

Over the years, secret intelligence reports had told of the corrosive effect of such methods on military morale. Periodically, they also described the gulf between the mandarin ruler and the apathetic peasantry, or the alienation of an urban middle class resentful of overbearing political controls and of its lack of real political voice.

At times even Washington felt exasperated with its chosen ally for failing to strive for greater popular allegiance through political, military and economic reforms. But the United States had become accustomed to having President Diem reject its advice and, early in 1963, found itself somewhat on the defensive before his complaint that there were too many prying Americans roaming his land.

"As the U.S. commitment and involvement deepened," the Pentagon chronicle relates, "frictions between American advisers and Vietnamese counterparts at all levels increased. Diem, under the influence of Nhu, complained about the quantity and zeal of U.S. advisers. They were creating a colonial impression among the people, he said."

Despite such frictions, the Kennedy Administration was content to continue the general policy that, the Pentagon analyst observes, was aptly captured in a journalistic aphorism: "Sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem."

As the Pentagon study recounts the 1963 political crisis, the spark of revolt was struck in the central Vietnamese city of Hue on May 8, when Government troops fired into a crowd of Buddhists displaying religious banners in defiance of a Government decree. Nine persons were killed and 14 injured, when they were crushed by armored vehicles.

The regime blamed a Vietcong provocateur. The Buddhists demanded that the Government admit it was the guilty party and pay indemnities to families of the victims. President Diem refused and, despite superficial compromises, the deadlock was never broken. The two sides slid into a series of increasingly violent confrontations.

The Buddhist protests -- mass demonstrations and the immolations of yellow-robed monks -- were met by police truncheons and growing arrests. Mrs. Nhu, the bachelor President's outspoken sister-in-law, angered the opposition by ridiculing the fiery Buddhist suicides as "barbecues." There was an outcry of shock abroad, especially in America, which brought the Kennedy Administration under strong public criticism for the United States' policy of backing President Diem.

The original May incident was hardly enough to shake the foundations of power. The Pentagon account blames the regime's mandarin rigidity for fueling the crisis. The Buddhist protests became a lightning rod for accumulated political frustrations. For the first time, the protests exposed the American public to the depth of Vietnamese disaffection with the Government.

By early July C.I.A. agents were tipped off to two rapidly developing coup plots. And a special national intelligence estimate on July 10 forecast that unless President Diem satisfied the Buddhists, "disorders will probably flare again and the chances of a coup or assassination attempts against him will become better than ever." [See Document #34.]

The very next day, Mr. Nhu daringly faced down some senior generals and the plotting subsided temporarily.

Throughout May and June the United States Embassy tried to prod President Diem into meeting Buddhist demands by alternately soft and hard tactics. Ambassador Frederick E. Nolting, a soft-spoken Virginian who, the Pentagon narrative notes, considered it his duty to get along with President Diem, tried gentle persuasion. When he left on vacation, his deputy, William C. Truehart, took a tougher line, warning Mr. Diem on June 12 that unless the Buddhist crisis was solved, the United States would be forced to dissociate itself from him.

Cutting short his vacation, Ambassador Nolting rushed to Washington early in July to urge the Administration not to abandon President Diem yet, arguing that his overthrow would plunge Vietnam into religious civil war. Although President Kennedy had already decided to send Mr. Lodge to Saigon as Ambassador late in August, he granted Mr. Nolting a last chance to try to talk President Diem into conciliating the Buddhists.

The Pentagon study relates that on Aug. 14, the eve of his departure, Ambassador Nolting extracted such a promise. As a final gesture to the departing American envoy, President Diem gave a press interview on Aug. 15 saying that conciliation had always been his policy toward the Buddhists and, contradicting Mrs. Nhu's earlier criticism, asserted that his family was pleased with the Lodge appointment.

Shock for Washington

Six days later the dam broke. South Vietnamese Special Forces troops in white helmets carried out midnight raids against Buddhist pagodas throughout the country. More than 1,400 people, mostly monks, were arrested and many of them beaten. Two days later, the army generals conspiring against President Diem first sought official American support.

The pagoda raids stunned Washington.

"In their brutality and their blunt repudiation of Diem's solemn word to Nolting, they were a direct, impudent slap in the face for the U.S.," the narrative asserts. "For better or worse, the Aug. 21 pagoda raids decided the issue for us."

American officials found them particularly galling because the raiding parties were led by Vietnamese Special Forces, which were largely financed by the C.I.A. for covert war operations, but which had in effect become the private army of Mr. Nhu.

The Pentagon account describes how Mr. Nhu had telephone lines to the United States Embassy cut to keep American officials ignorant and how he fooled them into believing the army had carried out the crackdown.

Because the army had declared martial law the day before and because some of those raiding parties wore borrowed paratroop uniforms, the embassy initially put the blame on Saigon's army in reporting to Washington.

Actually, the study explains, Mr. Nhu had bypassed the regular army chain of command and had ordered the raids personally. This version does not make it clear whether President Diem had approved in advance or merely accepted after the fact.

Both in Washington and Saigon, the United States denounced the raids and dissociated itself from such repressive policies. Mr. Lodge, in Honolulu for final briefings, was told to fly at once to Saigon where he landed on the morning of Aug. 22. Significantly, the next section of ,the Pentagon narrative is entitled "Lodge vs. Diem."

What the study terms the "first requests for support" came from the acting chief of staff of the armed forces, Maj. Gen. Tran Van Don, a French-trained Vietnamese aristocrat, and one of his deputies, Maj. Gen. Le Van Kim, reputed to be the real brains behind the coup. Despite their high positions, neither general had direct command over troops because Mr. Nhu had become suspicious of them.

Drawing on a C.I.A. information report, the study recounts that on Aug. 23, General Don told an American agent that the Voice of America should retract its broadcasts blaming the army for the pagoda raids and put out an accurate version in order to help the army. It was time, he said, for the United States to make its position known on internal Vietnamese affairs.

General Kim was more explicit. The pagoda raids, he told another agent, showed the lengths to which Mr. Nhu would go, and a firm American stand now in favor of his removal would unify the army and permit it to take action against both Mr. Nhu and his wife.

Significantly, the embassy reported that high civilian officials were also telling American diplomats that the Nhus' removal was vital. Nguyen Dinh Thuan, President Diem's Defense Minister, gave the blunt advice that "under no circumstances should the United States acquiesce in what the Nhus had done." Foreign Minister Vu Van Mau resigned and shaved his head like a Buddhist monk in protest.

Less than 48 hours after his arrival in Saigon, Ambassador Lodge cabled the State Department to report the coup feelers but cautioned that the most pivotal commanders around Saigon were still loyal to the Ngo brothers. Other officers' loyalties were unknown. Those circumstances, Mr. Lodge reckoned, would make American support of a coup d'etat a "shot in the dark."

His message reached Washington Saturday morning, Aug. 24, setting off what became one of the most controversial actions in the Kennedy Administration. The State Department, over the signature of Acting Secretary George W. Ball, sent Ambassador Lodge a reply that served as the initial American sanction for the coup.

It began by saying that the United States could not tolerate the powerful role of Mr. Nhu and his wife any longer. The key passage went on to declare in the stuttering language of cables:

"We wish give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no longer support Diem. You may also tell appropriate military commanders we will give them direct support in any interim period of breakdown central government mechanism." [See Document #35.]

Moreover, the message gave Ambassador Lodge broad leeway on how to proceed, and pledged to "back you to the hilt on actions you take to achieve our objectives."

This crucial message also cleared the way for public retractions of the earlier Voice of America broadcasts and instructed Mr. Lodge to pass the word that Washington could not provide further military and economic support to South Vietnam unless "prompt dramatic actions" were taken to release the jailed Buddhists and fulfill their demands.

The Pentagon study, drawing upon Roger Hilsman's book "To Move a Nation," published in 1964, explains that the controversial message was drafted by Mr. Hilsman, Assistant Secretary of State; W. Averell Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Michael V. Forrestal, White House specialist on Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and Mr. Ball. The prime movers were said to be Mr. Hilsman and Mr. Harriman.

The necessary top-level approval of the cablegram was complicated by the fact that President Kennedy was in Hyannisport, Mass., for the weekend, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was in New York and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and John A. McCone, Director of Central Intelligence, were on vacation.

According to the Hilsman account, both the President and Mr. Rusk were furnished early drafts of the cable and, through several telephone conversations, participated in revising the message before it was sent. Roswell L. Gilpatric, Acting Secretary of Defense, approved it for the civilian side of the Pentagon. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was given a belated check by telephone while out to dinner and, upon being told the President had approved the message, accepted on behalf of the military.

The Pentagon study reports that on Monday, when all the principal officers of government returned to Washington, several, especially General Taylor, had second thoughts. But by then it was too late.

In Saigon, the State Department's message had set a new chain of events in motion. The cablegram arrived in Saigon at midday Sunday, Aug. 25, and according to the Pentagon account, Ambassador Lodge immediately summoned General Harkins and John H. Richardson, the C.I.A. station chief. After their strategy session, Mr. Lodge urgently cabled the State Department, proposing a change in tactics:

"Believe that chances of Diem's meeting our demands are virtually nil. At same time, by making them we give Nhu chance to forestall or block action by military. Risk, we believe, is not worth taking, with Nhu in control combat forces Saigon.

"Therefore, propose we go straight to generals with our demands, without informing Diem. Would tell them we prepared have Diem without Nhus but it is in effect up to them whether we keep him. Would insist generals take steps to release Buddhist leaders and carry out June 16 agreement. Request immediate modification instructions." [See Document #36.]

The Ambassador said that General Harkins concurred, and a separate report from Mr. Richardson to C.I.A. headquarters fully endorsed Mr. Lodge's approach.

The immediate reply, obtained by The New York Times though not cited in the Pentagon narrative, was from Mr. Hilsman and Mr. Ball: "Agree to modification proposed."

It is not known whether this was cleared with President Kennedy and other senior officials, but under normal bureaucratic practice Mr. Hilsman would have initiated it.

When that cable reached Saigon, the Pentagon account reports, Mr. Lodge called another strategy session Monday morning. His inner circle decided that the "American official hand should not show," meaning that General Harkins would not talk to the generals. The contact men would be Colonel Conein, an old acquaintance of several of the generals, and another C.I.A. officer; the second agent's contacts petered out eventually.

The C.I.A. men were not only to tell the generals the gist of Washington's Aug. 24 message but also, as Mr. Richardson advised headquarters on Aug. 26, to convey the following message: "We cannot be of any help during initial action of assuming power of the state. Entirely their own action, win or lose. Don't expect to be bailed out." The plotters, moreover, were to be informed that the United States "hoped bloodshed can be avoided or reduced to absolute minimum." [See Document #37.]

In Washington on that same Monday, President Kennedy, informed of the misgivings of General Taylor and others, called together the National Security Council.

The Pentagon study, with very limited direct access to written records of Council meetings and none for these crucial days, accepts the Hilsman book's recollection that the principal doubters were Secretary McNamara, Mr. McCone and General Taylor, opposed by the senior State Department officials.

The Council met again on Tuesday. The Hilsman book reports that at that session Mr. Nolting, the former Ambassador, was doubtful that President Diem could be separated from his brother, as the Pentagon leaders proposed, but he also spoke with prophetic doubt about the capacity of the generals to lead the country.

The upshot, the Pentagon study continues, was that Saigon was asked on Aug. 27 to give more details about the plot and to assess the effect of delaying the coup.

This opened the breach between Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins, in turn worsening the rift in Washington.

The documentary record indicates that Washington's message reached Saigon after the two C.I.A. agents had made separate contacts with two additional members of the army cabal to convey the American position. Significantly, they learned that the plot leader was Lieut. Gen. Duong Van Minh, military adviser to the Presidency, a good combat commander and the general with the strongest following among the officer corps.

His supporters included not only Generals Don and Kim but also Maj. Gen. Tran Thien Khiem, executive officer of ,the Joint General Staff; Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh, commander of the II Corps region stretching northward from Saigon, and Col. Nguyen Van Thieu, commander of the Fifth Division just north of the capital. But Saigon itself and the Mekong Delta to the south were in the hands of supporters of President Diem.

From this balance of force, the Pentagon study recounts, Ambassador Lodge sized up the coup's prospects favorably, arguing that "chances of success would be diminished by delay."

General Harkins sent a separate message that he saw no clear-cut advantage for the coup plotters and no reason for "crash approval" of the plot. He doubted that the coup would be launched until the United States gave the word. His cablegram pledged full support to the Ambassador in carrying out the earlier instructions but, the analyst notes, it cryptically implied that his earlier concurrence had "been volunteered," evidently meaning that Mr. Lodge had overstated his views. But the incident is left unexplained.

A third message from Mr. Richardson, the C.I.A. chief, backed Ambassador Lodge. "Situation here has reached point of no return," he told the agency's headquarters. "Saigon is armed camp. Current indications are the Ngo family have dug in for last ditch battle. . .. There may be widespread fighting in Saigon and serious loss of life." [See Document #38.]

But Mr. Richardson warned that even if the Ngo brothers prevailed, "They and Vietnam will stagger on to final defeat at the hands of their own people and the VC."

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese generals, accustomed over the years to being warned by Americans not ,to engage in conspiracies against their own government, were having their own worries about the Americans.

On Aug. 29, the Pentagon study says, General Minh himself met Colonel Conein and asked for clear evidence that the United States would not betray the conspiracy to Mr. Nhu. As a clear sign of American support, he asked that Washington suspend economic aid to the Diem regime.

A second general made another check with the result that, according to the Pentagon study, the Ambassador authorized the C.I.A. to "assist in tactical planning" of the coup d'etat. A subsequent C.I.A. message, on Oct. 5, discloses that in August the American agents provided the coup organizers with sensitive information including a detailed plan and an armaments inventory for Camp Longthanh, a secret installation of the loyalist Special Forces commanded by Co!. Le Quang Tung.

The Americans in Saigon were well ahead of the policy makers in Washington. The top-level debate there, the Pentagon study relates, had become so heated and testy that President Kennedy personally cabled Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins asking each man again for his "independent judgment."

The Ambassador's reply to the President was an ardent case for the coup:

"We are launched on a course from which there is no respectable turning back: the overthrow of the Diem Government. There is no turning back in part because U.S. prestige is already publicly committed to this end in large measure and will become more so as facts leak out. In a more fundamental sense, there is no turning back because there is no possibility, in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administration .... " [See Document #39.]

Rejecting the idea of seeing President Diem, Mr. Lodge suggested instead that General Harkins be authorized personally to repeat earlier C.I.A. messages to the generals to ease their doubts. If that proved inadequate, the Ambassador wanted to suspend American aid as General Minh had requested.

The study recounts that General Harkins, for his part, stuck to his position that there was still time, without endangering the plotters, for a final approach to President Diem with an ultimatum to drop Mr. Nhu.

With tension high in both Saigon and Washington, the National Security Council held a climactic meeting on Aug. 29. A State Department message to Saigon that night indicated that President Kennedy leaned more on Ambassador Lodge's advice than on General Harkins's. [See Document #40.]

The N.S.C., the cablegram said, had "reaffirmed basic course" and, specifically authorized General Harkins to repeat earlier C.I.A. messages to the plotters. It told him to stress American support for the move "to eliminate the Nhus from the government" but it did not mention President Diem one way or the other.

Nonetheless, it reflected the prevailing acceptance of Ambassador Lodge's view that there was no turning back. "The U.S.G. will support a coup which has good chance of succeeding but plans no direct involvement of U.S. armed forces," it said. "Harkins should state that he is prepared to establish liaison with the coup planners and to review their plans, but will not engage directly in joint coup planning."

Moreover, the message authorized Mr. Lodge "to announce suspension of aid" to the Diem regime whenever and however he chose. But with an eye to the Administration's public image, it cautioned him to "manage" such an announcement so as to "minimize appearance of collusion" with the generals.

The State Department cablegram explained that the question of a "last approach" to President Diem -- advocated by General Harkins -- "remains undecided." Secretary Rusk, possibly reflecting some personal doubts, raised this issue in a separate message to Mr. Lodge. But the Ambassador rejected the idea out of hand.

At this point Mr. Kennedy sent his totally private message to Ambassador Lodge. The President said he had given his "full support" to the earlier message and promised that Washington would do everything possible "to help you conclude this operation successfully."

He asked the Ambassador to provide him with a running assessment of the coup's prospects right up to the "go signal" to permit him to "reverse previous instructions," if necessary.

The Ambassador's brief reply, on Aug. 30, acknowledged the President's right to change directions but warned him that, since "the operation" had to be Vietnamese-run, the American President might not be able to control it.

As matters turned out, Washington's agonizing had been to no avail. For, according to the study, General Harkins's first direct contact with the conspirators brought news that General Minh had called off the coup for the time being, fearing a bloody standoff in Saigon.

According to the Pentagon account, General Harkins was also told that Mr. Richardson's careful cultivation of Mr. Nhu had aroused suspicions among the generals that the C.I.A. chief might be undercutting them and that the President's brother was on the C.I.A. payroll. Later this would become an important issue and would lead to Mr. Richardson's replacement.

But on Aug. 31, Ambassador Lodge reported to Washington the collapse of the conspiracy and the end of the coup phase. He told Secretary Rusk -- who had worried in a cable only the day before about the lack of "bone and muscle" among the conspirators -- that there was "neither the will nor the organization among the generals ,to accomplish anything."

Mr. Lodge also reported hearing that Mr. Nhu was secretly dealing with Hanoi and the Vietcong through the French and Polish ambassadors, both of whose governments favored a neutralist solution between North and South Vietnam.

Washington was in a quandary. It had finally taken the risk of seeking an alternative to the Diem regime only to see the attempt dissolve. As the Pentagon narrative says: "The U.S. found itself at the end of August, 1963, without a policy and with most of its bridges burned."

The members of the National Security Council -- minus the President -- held a "where do we go from here?" meeting on Aug. 31. That session was revealing, the author comments, because of the "rambling inability to focus on the problem" -- the sense of an administration adrift.

The most controversial position was advanced by Paul M. Kattenburg, a 39-year-old diplomat who headed the Vietnam Interdepartmental Working Group. He proposed disengagement -- thereby, according to the Pentagon version, becoming the first official on record in a high-level Vietnam policy meeting to pursue to its logical conclusion the analysis that the war effort was irretrievable, either with or without President Diem.

Until he spoke, the trend of the discussion seemed to favor reluctantly sliding back toward some workable relationship with the Diem regime since there seemed no alternative. Secretary Rusk commented that it was "unrealistic" to insist that Me. Nhu "must go" and Secretary McNamara pushed for reopening high-level contact with the Presidential Palace. [See Document #44.]

In rebuttal, Assistant Secretary of State Hilsman reminded the group of the crippling malaise within the Vietnamese Government and the impact on the American image and policy elsewhere if Washington acquiesced "to a strong Nhu-dominated government."

According to the minutes of the meeting, Mr. Kattenburg pushed this argument a step further by asserting that if the United States tried to "live with" the Diem regime, it would be "thrown out of the country in six months." In the next six months to a year, he argued the war effort would go steadily downhill to the point where the Vietnamese people "will gradually go to the other side and we will be obliged to leave."

His analysis was immediately dismissed by Vice President Johnson, Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara. Me. Rusk was reported in the minutes as insisting that American policy be based on two points -- "than we will not pull out of Vietnam until the war is won, and that we will not run a coup. " Mr. McNamara endorsed this view.

Vice President Johnson said he agreed completely, reportedly declaring that "we should stop playing cops and robbers and get back to talking straight to the [Saigon Government] ... and once again go about winning the war."

It was more easily said than done. As the Pentagon study recounts, the Kennedy Administration passed through the next five weeks without any real policy but with three general notions in mind: first, the compulsion to send special missions to reassess the situation in Vietnam; second, the attempt to coerce the Diem regime into moderation through economic and propaganda pressures; and third, Ambassador Lodge's efforts to persuade the Nhus to leave the country while giving the cold shoulder to President Diem.

President Kennedy, in a television interview Sept. 2, applied his personal pressure on the Diem regime for the first time. The South Vietnamese Government, he said, would have to "take steps to bring back popular support" after the Buddhist repressions, otherwise the war could not be won. Success was possible, he said "with changes in policy and perhaps with personnel." But he did not specify whom he meant.

At another inconclusive National Security Council meeting four days later, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy returned to the question of disengagement. The Pentagon account reports him as reasoning that if the war was unwinnable by any foreseeable South Vietnamese regime, it was time to get out of Vietnam. But, if the Diem regime was the obstacle, he contended, then Ambassador Lodge should be given the power to bring about the necessary changes.

But the Administration's immediate response ,to its dilemma was -- at Secretary McNamara's suggestion -- to send a fact-finding mission to Vietnam for a fresh look: Maj. Gen. Victor H. Krulak, the Pentagon's top-ranking expert in counter-guerrilla warfare, and Joseph A. Mendenhall, the former political counselor in the Saigon Embassy.

The two men came back after an exhausting four-day tour with such diametrically opposed assessments that President Kennedy was moved to ask, "You two did visit the same country, didn't you?"

Dissatisfied, President Kennedy dispatched Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on a new fact-finding mission on Sept. 23. They met with President Diem on Sept. 29 and although Mr. McNamara had the authority to press the South Vietnamese ruler to remove his brother from power, he did not raise the issue. No explanation is given for this significant omission.

The Pentagon analyst comments that the report of their mission, submitted on Oct. 2, tried to bridge the Lodge-Harkins gap, and in the process reflected for the first time serious doubts in Mr. McNamara's mind.

The military assessment -- which the Secretary of Defense radically revised in retrospect after the successful Nov. 1 coup -- was generally optimistic. It reported "great progress" in the last year with no ill effects on the conduct of the war from the prolonged political crisis, and asserted that the "bulk" of American troops could be withdrawn by the end of 1965. The two men proposed and -- with the President's approval -- announced that 1,000 Americans would be pulled out by the end of 1963. [See Document #47.]

Their political analysis found discontent with the Diem- Nhu regime a "seething problem" that could boil over at any time. Unaware of the revived plotting, they discounted prospects for an early coup on grounds that the generals appeared to have "little stomach" for it and proposed that in the meantime, "we should work with the Diem regime but not support it." The study notes that they recommended a series of economic pressures, including an aid cutoff, without indicating whether they remembered that this was the "go" signal that the generals had previously requested.

The Kennedy Administration was already engaged in a pressure campaign that, whatever its intent, was bound to encourage the army generals to try again, as the narrative notes.

The President's televised remark on the need for possible changes in personnel was the first shot. Next, on Sept. 14, Washington informed the embassy that it was deferring decisions on an $18.5-million program to finance commercial imports to South Vietnam. Three days later the White House instructed Ambassador Lodge to make new efforts to achieve a "visible reduction" in the influence of the Nhus -- preferably by arranging their departure from Vietnam "at least for an extended vacation." [See Document #45.]

It gave him broad authority to use aid as leverage in this venture, "bearing in mind that it is not our current policy to cut off aid entirely." In particular, it was suggested, Mr. Lodge might want to limit or reroute aid now going "to or through Nhu" or his collaborators. It also urged him-without ordering him -- to resume contact with President Diem. But Mr. Lodge demurred.

Washington's high-level messages to ·the Ambassador throughout the fall of ] 963 are notable for the unusual deference they show him. President Kennedy himself proceeded with delicacy on those rare occasions when he overruled the Ambassador. Once, in a personal cablegram to Mr. Lodge in mid-September, he commented that, as the son of a former Ambassador, "I am well trained in the importance of protecting the effectiveness of the man-on-the-spot." The record shows that the President understood, too, how firm and explicit he had to be to overrule the Ambassador -- and, significantly, he did not do so in the final days before the coup.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Death Knell for Diem

In October, the tempo of events quickened. In Saigon on Oct. 2, the analyst writes, Colonel Conein "accidentally" ran into General Don, who proposed a date that evening in Nhatrang. That night, the C.I.A. man learned that the conspiracy was on the track again and that General Minh, its leader, wanted to discuss the details. Ambassador Lodge approved the meeting.

Oct. 5 was a fateful day both in Saigon and in Washington. For the first time in weeks, another Buddhist monk burned himself to death in the central marketplace in Saigon. Mr. Richardson, the C.I.A. chief whose links to Mr. Nhu had aroused suspicions among the Army generals, left South Vietnam after what are described as behind-the-scenes efforts by Ambassador Lodge to have him transferred. And President Kennedy took far-reaching decisions to apply major economic sanctions against the Diem regime.

At 8: 30 A.M. that same day Colonel Conein went to General Minh's headquarters for a 70-minute meeting. According to the C.I.A. account of the meeting, the two men talked in French. The South Vietnamese general, nicknamed Big Minh by his colleagues because of his burly build, disclaimed any personal political ambition.

But he said that the army commanders felt the war would be lo&t unless the government was changed soon and that he "must know" the American Government's position on a change of regime "within the very near future." The general said he did not expect "any specific American support" for the coup d'etat but did need assurances that the Americans would not block it. He did not press for an on-the-spot commitment, but asked for another date with Colonel Conein.

General Minh outlined several possible tactics. The two main ones called for retaining President Diem but assassinating his two powerful and feared brothers Mr. Nhu and Ngo Dinh Can, the regime's proconsul in Central Vietnam; or, a head-on military battle for control of Saigon and the government against roughly 5,500 loyalist troops in the capital.

Because of the abortive plot in August, Ambassador Lodge reacted warily. In a special message to Secretary Rusk, he commented that neither he nor General Harkins had "great faith in Big Minh." [See Document #49.] Nonetheless, he recommended giving the generals assurance that the United States would not "thwart" their coup, that it would review their plans -- "other than assassination plans" -- and that it would continue aid to any future government that gave promise of gaining popular support and winning the war. He said General Harkins concurred in these recommendations.

In Washington, too, events were gaining momentum. On Oct. 2, President Kennedy had received the recommendations of the McNamara-Taylor mission (drafted before the new Saigon contacts) urging tight new pressures on the regime in the hopes of gaining some reforms and simultaneously advocating covert contacts with "possible alternative leadership" without actively promoting a coup.

The President accepted all the report's proposals. According to the Pentagon account, he specifically authorized suspension of economic subsidies for South Vietnam's commercial imports, a freeze on loans to enable Saigon to build a waterworks and an electric-power plant for the capital region, and, significantly, a cut-off of financial support for the Vietnamese Special Forces -- controlled by Mr. Nhu -- unless they were put under the Joint General Staff, headed by the plotting generals.

There were to be no public announcements, and the various steps were to be unrolled consecutively at Mr. Lodge's discretion. But in a city as keyed-up and alert to every nuance in American policy as Saigon, the Pentagon study notes, these steps were bound to be read in many quarters as the death knell for the Diem regime. Only a month before, he recalls, the cut-offs had been discussed -- and approved -- as a signal of American support to the generals, if necessary.

The analyst comments that the documentary record in early October "leaves ambiguous" whether the White House intended the aid suspensions to be a "green light" for the coup. But he says that they were interpreted that way by the generals. The Diem regime reacted furiously. Its press outlets publicized the freeze on import subsidies on Oct. 7 and accused Washington of sabotaging the war effort.

In a White House message -- sent on Oct. 5 through C.I.A. channels for tight security within the American Government -- Washington gave Ambassador Lodge careful coaching. It instructed him that "no' initiative shouldn't be taken to give any active covert encouragement to' a coup." But he was to' organize an "urgent covert effort . . . to identify and build up contacts with possible alternative leadership as and when it appears." [See Document #50.]

The Washington message emphasized that the objectives should be "surveillance and readiness" rather than "active promotion of a coup." It told Mr. Lodge that "you alone" should manage the operation, through the C.I.A. chief in Saigon.

These instructions were transmitted before Washington had received the report of the Minh-Conein contact, the Pentagon study observes. For, on the very next day, with time to' digest that report, Washington took a considerably more flexible approach.

The C.I.A. relayed new White House instructions on Oct. 6. In a passage that Ambassador Loge interpreted as signaling a desire for a change of regime -- though General Harkins later disputed him vigorously on this point -- Washington said that while it did not wish to' "stimulate" a coup, it also did not want "to' leave the impression that the U.S. would thwart a change of government." Nor would it withhold aid from a new regime. [See Document #51.]

In view of General Minh's modest request for American acquiescence, the generals could interpret this as a go ahead.

The Oct. 6 message also ordered the C.I.A. man to obtain "detailed information" to help Washington assess the coup's chances. Yet it cautioned against "being drawn into reviewing Dr advising on operational plans or other actions" that might eventually "tend to' identify U.S. too closely" with a coup. In the language of the Oct. 5 cable, Washington wanted to' preserve "plausibility if denia1."

The new American position was conveyed to General Minh by his C.I.A. contact about Oct. 10.

On Oct. 18, with the cut-off of commercial import subsidies already causing financial scares in Saigon, the Pentagon study reports that General Harkins informed President Diem that American funds were being cut off from the Special Forces. The narrative notes that by then the coup plans were well advanced and the American move against what amounted to a Presidential Palace guard was an obvious spur to the conspirators.

By mid-October the Administration was hearing very disturbing intelligence estimates on the war. On Oct. 19 the C.I.A. reported that the tempo of Vietcong attacks was rising, Government troops "missing in action" were increasing and other military indicators were "turning sour," as the Pentagon account puts it. In a controversial report on Oct. 22, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research contested the military optimism of recent months. It concluded that there had been "an unfavorable shift in the military balance" since July and that the Government would have been in trouble even without the Buddhist crisis.

Against this background, the conspiracy in Saigon hit a snag.

The narrative recounts that General Don, in a state of agitation, told Colonel Conein on Oct. 23 that the coup had been scheduled for Oct. 26 -- and then called off because General Harkins had discouraged it on Oct. 22. General Don's account was that General Harkins complained to him that a Vietnamese colonel had discussed the coup plans with an American officer, asking for support -- all without sanction from the senior generals.

General Harkins, he said, had insisted that American officers should not be approached about a coup because it distracted them from the war. He implied that General Harkins might have leaked word of the plot to the palace. He demanded reassurance of American support -- and got it from Colonel Conein.

The Pentagon study quotes a message from Ambassador Lodge on Oct. 23 saying that he had talked with General Harkins who said he had misunderstood Washington's policy guidance. The Ambassador quoted the general as saying he hoped he had not upset the delicate arrangements and would tell General Don that his previous remarks did not reflect American policy. That very night, the Pentagon version says, General Harkins saw General Don to retract his earlier statements.

On Oct. 24, however, in a message to General Taylor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Harkins disputed Mr. Lodge's version of the events. He denied having violated Washington's policy guidance, saying he had merely rebuffed General Don's suggestion that they meet again to discuss coup plans.

"I told Don that I would not discuss coups that were not my business though I had heard rumors of many," General Harkins told Washington. Insisting that he was "not trying to thwart a change in government," he did, however, voice the prophetic fear that if the Diem regime was toppled, its fall might touch off factional warfare within the army that would eventually "interfere with the war effort."

General Taylor's immediate reply was: "View here is that your actions in disengaging from the coup discussions were correct and that you should continue to avoid any involvement." This evidently reflected Washington's earlier instructions that Mr. Lodge alone should manage the coup contacts through the C.I.A.

The incident once again opened the breach between the Ambassador and the general. It underscored not only their differences in views but also, the Pentagon analyst says, their total lack of coordination.

Moreover, it deepened the Vietnamese generals' suspicion of General Harkins, whom they had always mistrusted because of his closeness to President Diem. Not only did they subsequently refuse to talk to him about the coup out of fear of leaks to the palace, the account says, but they consistently refused to show any Americans their detailed plans despite repeated promises to do so -- a point that bedeviled Washington.

Nonetheless, Colonel Conein's reassurances had sufficiently emboldened them that, according to a C.I.A. information report, they passed the word to Ambassador Lodge on Oct. 24 that the coup would occur before Nov. 2. President Diem also chose Oct. 24 finally to break the ice with Mr. Lodge by inviting him to spend Sunday, Oct. 27, with him at the presidential villa in the mountain resort of Dalat.

But in Washington General Harkins's reports had revived doubts about the coup, and it was now Mr. Lodge's turn to be on the defensive.

The Pentagon study recounts that Mr. McCone, the C.I.A. director, and McGeorge Bundy, the President's special assistant for national security, sent out cablegrams expressing worry that General Don might be a double-agent from the Diem-Nhu regime ,trying to entrap the United States. Mr. Bundy also suggested replacing Colonel Conein as the C.I.A. contact man.

On Oct. 25 Ambassador Lodge tried to put Washington's mind at ease. In a message to Mr. Bundy, he discounted the likelihood that General Don was engaged in a "provocation" and stoutly defended Colonel Conein.

The Ambassador also argued against any temptation to "pour cold water" on the plot. While he acknowledged that struggles among successors of the Diem regime could damage the war effort, he contended that it was "at least an even bet that the next government would not bungle and stumble as much as the present one has." [See Document # 52.]

The White House reply, on Oct. 25, endorsed his view that the United States "should not be in position of thwarting coup" but urged him to give the White House "the option of judging and warning on any plan with poor prospects of success." [See Document #53.]

It indicated that President Kennedy's main worries, as in August, were failure and the appearance of complicity. "We are particularly concerned," the White House cablegram said, "about hazard that an unsuccessful coup, however carefully we avoid direct engagement, will be laid at our door by public opinion almost everywhere."

What neither the Ambassador nor the White House knew, the Pentagon narratives notes, was that the coup plotters were even then manipulating the balance of military forces around Saigon in their favor, double-dealing with Mr. Nhu and outwitting him.

The pivotal figure was Maj. Gen. Ton That Dinh, the military governor of Saigon and commander of the III Corps -- all the regular army troops in the capital region. The Pentagon account describes how General Don played upon General Dinh's vanity to maneuver him into a clash with Mr. Nhu, thereby enlisting his cooperation for the coup plot.

Through another channel, however, Mr. Nhu learned of the conspiracy and, confronting General Dinh with that news, told him to help lay a trap for the other generals. This maneuver called for starting a false coup to lure the anti- Diemists into the open and then using General Dinh's forces to crush the real plot.

The young general informed the other conspirators of Mr. Nhu's counterplot. To be on the safe side, in case he was really loyal to Mr. Nhu, they recruited troop commanders under him.

In Saigon, the atmosphere had become one of impending violence. So intense was the maneuvering, according to the Pentagon study, that it was "virtually impossible to keep track of all the plots against the regime." The United States Embassy in one cable to Washington identified 10 dissident groups in addition to the generals' plot.

Nonetheless President Diem, at his Oct. 27 meeting with Mr. Lodge, seemed unprepared to yield an inch -- a "fruitless, frustrating" exchange, according to the Pentagon version.

Paraphrasing the Ambassador's report, the study recounts that President Diem inquired about the suspension of American aid and in reply Mr. Lodge asked about the release of hundreds of arrested Buddhists and student demonstrators, and about reopening schools shut by the regime in fear of further turbulence. President Diem, the analyst says, "offered excuses and complaints."

Finally, Ambassador Lodge said: "Mr. President, every single specific suggestion which I have made, you have rejected. Isn't there some one thing you may think of that is within your capabilities to do and that would favorably impress U.S. opinion?"

The Ambassador reported that President Diem "gave me a blank look and changed the subject."

At Saigon airport the next morning, as President Diem and Mr. Lodge were about to go to a ceremony dedicating a Vietnamese power plant, General Don daringly took the Ambassador aside.

The Pentagon account says General Don "asked [Mr. Lodge] if Conein was authorized to speak for him."

"Lodge assured Don that he was," the account continues. "Don said that the coup must be thoroughly Vietnamese and that the U.S. must not interfere. Lodge agreed, adding that the U.S. wanted no satellites but would not thwart a coup. When Lodge asked about the timing of the coup, Don replied the generals were not yet ready.

Later that day, General Don met with Colonel Conein and urged that Mr. Lodge make no change in his previously announced plans to leave on a trip to Washington on Oct. 31 for fear that postponement might tip off the Presidential Palace. General Don also disclosed that General Dinh, the III Corps commander, had been neutralized, shifting the military balance in the coup's favor.

By Oct. 29, the analyst comments, Ambassador Lodge clearly felt that the United States was "committed" to the coup and that it was too late for second thoughts, and he communicated those views forcefully to Washington.

After reporting the support of prominent leaders, including Vice President Nguyen Ngoc Tho, for the coup, the Ambassador said he felt an attempt was "imminent."

"Whether this coup fails or succeeds," Mr. Lodge said, "the U.S.G. must be prepared to accept the fact that we will be blamed, however unjustifiably; and finally that no positive action by the U.S.G. can prevent a coup attempt -- short of informing Diem and Nhu with all the opprobrium that such an action would entail."

With the first Vietnamese troop movements preparatory to the coup already under way, the Pentagon gave orders to have a naval task force stand off the Vietnamese coast "if events required," as the account puts it. When Mr. Lodge was informed of this, he urged discretion lest the Diem regime be alerted.

Events now had an ineluctable momentum. But, in Washington, the study reports, Secretary McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were vacillating over the continuing differences between Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins.

They put their anxieties before a National Security Council meeting on Oct. 29, and the White House then instructed Ambassador Lodge to show General Harkins, who had been away in Bangkok briefly, the relevant messages to be sure that he would be fully aware of the coup arrangements. If Mr. Lodge was to go through with his trip home as scheduled, Washington felt that General Harkins -- rather than the Ambassador's deputy, as would have been customary -- should be in charge of the American mission.

Belatedly apprised of the continuing Don-Conein contacts and the Ambassador's latest recommendations to Washington, General Harkins sent off three angry cables to General Taylor on Oct. 30.

He was "irate," the analyst remarks, not only at having been excluded by Mr. Lodge from information about the coup but also at reading the Ambassador's gloomy assessments of how the war was going, which diametrically opposed his own views. He protested to Washington that the Ambassador was keeping him in the dark.

More important, he declared, in a message cited by the study, there was a "basic" difference between them in interpreting Washington's instructions.

Since receiving the Oct. 5 guidance from the White House, General Harkins said, he had been operating in the belief that the basic American policy line was that "no initiative" should be taken to encourage a coup. But he said Mr. Lodge took the position that the Oct. 6 message -- "not to thwart" a coup -- modified the policy line and indicated that "a change of government is desired and ... the only way to bring about such a change is by a coup."

Moreover, General Harkins sought to undermine confidence in the conspiracy by accusing General Don of lying or serving as a double agent. Overlooking his own earlier refusal to talk about the coup, General Harkins told Washington:

"What he [Don] told me is diametrically opposed to what he told Colonel Conein. He told Conein the coup would be before Nov. 2. He told me he was not planning a coup when I sat with Don and Big Minh for two hours during the parade last Saturday. No one mentioned coups." [See Document #54.]

The Harkins messages shook Washington's confidence severely and the White House conveyed its anxieties to Ambassador Lodge on Oct. 30. It reckoned the military balance of forces as "approximately equal," raising the danger of prolonged fighting or even defeat. If the coup group could not show prospects for quick success, the White House said, "we should discourage them from proceeding since a miscalculation could result in jeopardizing the U.S. position in Southeast Asia." [See Document #56.]

Contrary to Mr. Lodge's position, the White House also felt that a word from the Americans could delay the coup but it refrained from ordering him to halt the conspiracy.

That same night, the documentary record discloses, Mr. Lodge replied, suggesting an even deeper involvement. In answer to Washington's worries, he held to the view that the Americans did not "have the power to delay or discourage a coup." [See Document #57.]

At this late hour, he urged that the United States keep "hands off," not only because he believed "Vietnam's best generals are involved" but also because he shared their expectation that some wavering units would join the coup.

"If we were convinced that the coup was going to fail, we would, of course do everything we could to stop it," he pledged. But that was not his expectation.

Mr. Lodge dismissed the suggestion of opening up a second channel to the generals. Instead, he suggested that the cabal might need "funds at the last moment with which to buy off potential opposition. To the extent that these funds can be passed discreetly, I believe we should furnish them."

The Ambassador took a considerably less apocalyptic view of failure than did Washington. "We will have to pick up the pieces as best we can at that time," he said. "We have a commitment to the generals from the August episode to attempt to help in the evacuation of their dependents. We should try to live up to this if conditions will permit."

He predicted that once the coup was under way, the Diem regime "will request me or General Harkins to use our influence to call it off." His response, he said, would be that "our influence could not be superior to [President Diem's] and if he is unable to call it off, we would certainly be unable to do so."

In the event of a deadlock or some negotiations that required the "removal of key personalities," he suggested Saipan as a good destination because "the absence of press, communications, etc., would allow us some leeway to make further decision as to their ultimate disposition."

And he said that if asked to provide political asylum for senior officials, presumably meaning not only President Diem but such opponents as Vice President Tho, "We would probably have to grant it."

In addition, the Ambassador responded to General Harkins's attacks on his operating methods by objecting vigorously to the Administration's plans to put the general in charge of the American mission if the Ambassador left Saigon. He thought it wrong, he said, to put a military man in control during such a politically charged time.

"This is said impersonally," the Ambassador commented, "since General Harkins is a splendid general and an old friend of mine to whom I would gladly entrust anything I have."

His message ended by saying: "General Harkins has read this and does not concur."

The final White House message to Ambassador Lodge, which went out later that night, was stern in tone and refused to accept his contention that the United States was powerless to stop a coup without betraying it to the Diem regime.

"If you should conclude that there is not clearly a high prospect of success," the White House told Mr. Lodge, "you should communicate this doubt to generals in a way calculated to persuade them to desist at least until chances are better." [See Document #58.]

But once again Washington left the matter in Mr. Lodge's hands by allowing him to make the final judgment on the prospects for the coup's success. It asserted, moreover, that once a coup was under way, "it is in the interest of the U.S. Government that it should succeed."

The message also set out guidelines for the American mission in the event of a coup -- to reject appeals for direct intervention from either side; if necessary, to be ready to play some intermediary role but to maintain strict neutrality without the appearance of pressure on either side; and if the coup failed, to "afford asylum ... to those to whom there is any expressed or implied obligation" with the hope that they would use other countries' embassies as well.

The White House urged the Ambassador not to feel committed to this scheduled visit home on Oct. 31. But it insisted that if he left and the coup did occur, General Harkins would be put in charge. Mr. Lodge, of course, was forced to cancel his trip to Washington, and the coup was launched on Nov. 1.

That morning the Ambassador called on President Diem with Adm. Harry D. Felt, commander in chief of American forces in the Pacific. At noon, Admiral Felt went to the airport, unaware that the military forces were already gathering for the final assault on the Diem regime.

The coup unrolled like clockwork. At 1:30 P.M., coup forces seized the police headquarters, radio stations, the airport and other installations and began their attacks on the Presidential Palace and the Special Forces barracks.

When loyal officers alerted Mr. Nhu to the first crucial moves, he thought it all part of his devious counterplot with General Dinh and he told the loyal commanders not to intervene. But later, when the attack on the palace began, he tried to call General Dinh to order the counterattack only to be told that the general was unavailable.

Within three hours all resistance had been crushed except at the Presidential Palace, and the generals broadcast demands for the Ngo brothers to resign. President Diem replied by asking them to come to the palace for consultations -- a tactic used in 1960 to delay the coup long enough for loyal troops to reach the city. But the generals refused.

Not long afterward, President Diem telephoned Ambassador Lodge to ask where the United States stood. Their conversation was recorded by the Embassy:

DIEM: Some units have made a rebellion, and I want to know what is the attitude of the U.S.

LODGE: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to tell you. I have heard the shooting, but am not acquainted with all the facts. Also it is 4:30 A.M. in Washington and the U.S. Government cannot possibly have a view.

DIEM: But you must have general ideas. After all, I am a chief of state. I have tried to do my duty. I want to do now what duty and good sense require. I believe in duty above all.

LODGE: You have certainly done your duty. As I told you only this morning, I admire your courage and your great contributions to your country. No one can take away from you the credit for all you have done. Now I am worried about your physical safety. I have a report that those in charge of the current activity offer you and your brother safe conduct out of the country if you resign. Have you heard this?

DIEM: No. [And then, after a pause] You have my telephone number.

LODGE: Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, please call me.

DIEM: I am trying to re-establish order.

While fighting continued at the palace, President Diem and his brother escaped through a secret tunnel and hid in Cholon, the Chinese section of the capital. Shortly after dawn, the last palace stronghold surrendered.

Throughout the night the Pentagon study recounts, President Diem kept contact by phone with the generals who, urging him to surrender, offered a guarantee of safe conduct to the airport to permit him to leave South Vietnam. At 6:20 A.M. the President finally agreed, but did not tell General Minh his whereabouts.

According to the account, the Ngo brothers were tracked down by some armored units commanded by a long-time enemy of the President, and, after their capture, they were shot to death inside an armored car carrying them to the Joint General Staff headquarters.

Washington delayed immediate recognition of the new regime because, the study says, Secretary Rusk felt that a delay would reduce the appearance of American complicity in the coup and would make the generals look less like American stooges. Mr. Rusk also discouraged any large delegations of generals from calling on Ambassador Lodge as if they were "reporting in."

The Kennedy Administration is described as shocked and dismayed by the murders of the two leaders but says it had been "reluctant to intervene on behalf of Diem and Nhu for fear of appearing to offer support to them or reneging on our pledges of noninterference to the generals."

The Americans had also reportedly counted on the coup committee's offer of safe conduct to the Ngo brothers which, until the very last moment -- when the armored units were just about to seize them -- President Diem had repeatedly rejected.

New Omens of Peril

In what the analyst calls the first of self-satisfaction, Ambassador Lodge cabled Washington on Nov. 4 predicting that the change of regime would shorten the war against the Vietcong because of the improved morale in the South Vietnamese Army.

But the Pentagon study recounts a number of immediate and disturbing omens. Vietcong activity jumped dramatically immediately after the coup. The fall of the Diem regime, as Mr. Lodge reported, also exposed the inflated South Vietnamese reports of success for the strategic-hamlet program.

Equally significant, when Mr. Lodge first met General Minh, the new chief of state, he reported to Washington that the general seemed "tired and somewhat frazzled" though "obviously a good, well-intentioned man."

"Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?" Mr. Lodge wondered.

It was a prophetic comment, for within three months one of the coup group, Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh, seized power for himself, starting a round of intramural power struggles that plagued Washington for the next two years drawing it ever deeper into the Vietnam war in an effort to prop up successive South Vietnamese regimes.

Just before President Kennedy's assassination, his top aides held a Vietnam strategy conference at Honolulu. Within four days of that meeting, President Johnson issued a new Vietnam policy paper to demonstrate that there would be no break from the Kennedy policies.

Particularly in the sphere of covert operations against North Vietnam, which became a prelude to the Tonkin Gulf clashes in 1964, the Pentagon narrative describes a smooth transition in the decision-making process. The Honolulu conference, set up under President Kennedy, ordered planning for a stepped-up program of what the account calls "non-attributable hit-and- run" raids against North Vietnam. In his first Vietnam policy document, on Nov. 26, President Johnson gave his personal sanction to the planning for these operations.

In confident language, President Johnson set an objective in South Vietnam that was to stand unchallenged within the Administration for three and a half years: to assist "the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy." He reaffirmed the goal of concluding the war by the end of 1965. [See Document #60.]

But a harbinger of events was a report to President Johnson from Secretary McNamara -- "laden with gloom" as the analyst puts it -- a month later.

After a trip to Vietnam, the Secretary of Defense reported on Dec. 21, 1963, that the new regime was "indecisive and drifting."

"Vietcong progress," Me. McNamara said, in a major shift of his own thinking, "has been great during the period since the coup, with my best guess being that the situation has in fact been deteriorating in the countryside since July to a far greater extent than we realize because of our undue dependence on distorted Vietnamese reporting."

In conclusion, he felt compelled to say: "The situation is very disturbing. Current trends, unless reversed in the next two-three months, would lead to a neutralization at best and more likely to a Communist-controlled state."

His assessment laid the groundwork for decisions in early 1964 to step up the covert war against North Vietnam, and increase American aid to the South.


Following are texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, for the period of the 1963 coup d'etat against President Ngo Dinh Diem, the events leading up to it and its aftermath. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents are printed verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

#33: Notes on Kennedy Meeting on Diem Regime in July, 1963

Memorandum by Roger Hilsman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, on a meeting held at the White House July 4, 1963. Besides President Kennedy and Mr. Hilsman, participants were Under Secretary of State George Ball; Under Secretary of State Averell Harriman; McGeorge Bundy, Presidential assistant for national security; and Michael V. Forrestal, Southeast Asia specialist on the White House staff.

The President was briefed on developments in Indonesia, Laos and Viet-Nam. The portion on Viet-Nam follows:

A joint agreement was signed on June 16 in which the Government met the Buddhists' five demands. The Buddhists and the Government then worked together on the funeral arrangements for the bonze who burned himself to death so that incidents could be avoided. The funeral came off without trouble.

Since then there have been rumors circulating in Saigon that the Government does not intend to live up to the agreement. These rumors were given credence by an article appearing in the English-language "Times" of Viet-Nam, which is dominated by the Nhus. The article contained a veiled attack on the U.S. and on the Buddhists. There was a suggestion that the monk who burned himself to death was drugged and a provocative challenge to the Buddhists that, if no further demonstrations occurred on July 2, this would amount to an admission by the Buddhists that they were satisfied with the Government's action. (The President injected questions on the possibility of drugging, to which Mr. Hilsman replied that religious fervor was an adequate explanation.)

At this point there was a discussion of the possibility of getting rid of the Nhus in which the combined judgment was that it would not be possible.

Continuing the briefing, Mr. Hilsman said that the Buddhists contained an activist element which undoubtedly favored increasing demands as well as charging the Government with dragging its feet. There was thus an element of truth in Diem's view that the Buddhists might push their demands so far as to make his fall inevitable.

During these events the U.S. had put extremely heavy pressure on Diem to take political actions. Most recently we had urged Diem to make a speech which would include announcements that he intended to meet with Buddhist leaders, permit Buddhist chaplains in the army and so on. If Diem did not make such a speech and there were further demonstrations, the U.S. would be compelled publicly to disassociate itself from the GVN's Buddhist policy. Mr. Hilsman reported that Diem had received this approach with what seemed to be excessive politeness but had said he would consider making such a speech.

Our estimate was that no matter what Diem did there will be coup attempts over the next four months. Whether or not any of these attempts will be successful is impossible to say.

Mr. Hilsman said that everyone agreed that the chances of chaos in the wake of a coup are considerably less than they were a year ago. An encouraging sign relative to this point is that the war between the Vietnamese forces and the Viet Cong has been pursued throughout the Buddhist crisis without noticeable let-up. At this point Mr. Forrestal reported on General Krulak's views that, even if there were chaos in Saigon, the military units in the field would continue to confront the Communists.

Mr. Hilsman went on to say that Ambassador Nolting believes that the most likely result of a coup attempt that succeeded in killing Diem was civil war. Mr. Hilsman disagreed with this view slightly in that he thought civil war was not the most likely result but that it was certainly a possible result.

The timing of Ambassador Nolting's return and Ambassador Lodge's assumption of duty was then discussed. The President's initial view was that Ambassador Nolting should return immediately and that Ambassador Lodge should assume his duties as soon thereafter as possible. The President volunteered that Ambassador Nolting had done an outstanding job, that it was almost miraculous the way he had succeeded in turning the war around from the disastrously low point in relations between Diem and ourselves that existed when Ambassador Nolting took over. Mr. Hilsman pointed out the personal sacrifices that Ambassador Nolting had been forced to make during this period, and the President said that he hoped a way could be found to commend Ambassador Nolting publicly so as to make clear the fine job he had done and that he hoped an appropriate position could be found for him in Washington so that he could give his children a suitable home in the years immediately ahead.

The President's decision was to delegate the authority to decide on the timing of Ambassador Nolting's return to the Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs; that Ambassador Lodge should report to Washington no later than July 15 so that he could take the Counterinsurgency Course simultaneously with the normal briefings for an ambassador; and that Ambassador Lodge should arrive in Saigon as soon as possible following completion of the CI Course on August 14. Arrangements were made for Ambassador Nolting to see the President at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, July 8.

#34: Intelligence Estimate on '63 Unrest

Excerpts from Special National Intelligence Estimate 53-2-63, "The Situation in South Vietnam," July 10, 1963.


A. The Buddhist crisis in South Vietnam has highlighted and intensified a widespread and long-standing dissatisfaction with the Diem regime and its style of government. If -- as is likely -- Diem fails to carry out truly and promptly the commitments he has made to the Buddhists, disorders will probably flare again and the chances of a coup or assassination attempts against him will become better than ever ...

B. The Diem regime's underlying uneasiness about the extent of the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam has been sharpened by the Buddhist affair and the firm line taken by the U.S. This attitude will almost certainly persist and further pressure to reduce the U.S. presence in the country is likely ....

C. Thus far, the Buddhist issue has not been effectively exploited by the Communists, nor does it appear to have had any appreciable effect on the counterinsurgency effort. We do not think Diem is likely to be overthrown by a Communist coup. Nor do we think the Communists would necessarily profit if he were overthrown by some combination of his non-Communist opponents. A non-Communist successor regime might be initially less effective against the Viet Cong, but, given continued support from the U.S. could provide reasonably effective leadership for the government and the war effort ....

#35: Washington Message to Lodge on Need to Remove Nhus

Cablegram tram the State Department to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon, Aug. 24, 1963.

It is now clear that whether military proposed martial law or whether Nhu tricked them into it, Nhu took advantage of its imposition to smash pagodas with police and Tung's Special Forces loyal to him, thus placing onus on military in eyes of world and Vietnamese people. Also clear that Nhu has maneuvered himself into commanding position.

U.S. Government cannot tolerate situation in which power lies in Nhu's hands. Diem must be given chance to rid himself of Nhu and his coterie and replace them with best military and political personalities available.

If, in spite of all of your efforts, Diem remains obdurate and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved.

We now believe immediate action must be taken to prevent Nhu from consolidating his position further. Therefore, unless you in consultation with Harkins perceive overriding objections you are authorized to proceed along following lines:

(1) First we must press on appropriate levels of GVN following line:

(a) USG cannot accept actions against Buddhists taken by Nhu and his collaborators under cover martial law.

(b) Prompt dramatic actions redress situation must be taken, including repeal of decree 10, release of arrested monks, nuns, etc.

(2) We must at same time also tell key military leaders that U.S. would find it impossible to continue support GVN militarily and economically unless above steps are taken immediately which we recognize requires removal of Nhus from the scene. We wish give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no longer support Diem. You may also tell appropriate military commanders we will give them direct support in any interim period of breakdown central government mechanism.

(3) We recognize the necessity of removing taint on military for pagoda raids and placing blame squarely on Nhu. You are authorized to have such statements made in Saigon as you consider desirable to achieve this objective. We are prepared to take same line here and to have Voice of America make statement along lines contained in next numbered telegram whenever you give the word, preferably as soon as possible.

Concurrently, with above, Ambassador and country team should urgently examine all possible alternative leadership and make detailed plans as to how we might bring about Diem's replacement if this should become necessary.

Assume you will consult with General Harkins re any precautions necessary protect American personnel during crisis period. You will understand that we cannot from Washington give you detailed instructions as to how this operation should proceed, but you will also know we will back you to the hilt on actions you take to achieve our objectives.

Needless to say we have held knowledge of this telegram to minimum essential people and assume you will take similar precautions to prevent premature leaks.

#36: Lodge's Reply to Washington

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Assistant Secretary of State Roger Hilsman, Aug. 25, 1963.

Believe that chances of Diem's meeting our demands are virtually nil. At same time, by making them we give Nhu chance to forestall or block action by military. Risk, we believe, is not worth taking, with Nhu in control combat forces Saigon.

Therefore, propose we go straight to Generals with our demands, without informing Diem. Would tell them we prepared have Diem without Nhus but it is in effect up to them whether to keep him. Would also insist generals take steps to release Buddhist leaders and carry out June 16 agreement.

Request immediate modification instructions. However, do not propose move until we are satisfied with E and E plans. Harkins concurs. I present credentials President Diem tomorrow 11 A.M.
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#37: C.I.A. Aide's Cable to Chief on Contact with Saigon Generals

Cablegram from John Richardson, the Central Intelligence Agency's Saigon station chief, to John A. McCone, Director of Central Intelligence, Aug. 26, 1963.

During meeting with Harkins, Trueheart, Mecklin and COS on morning 26 Aug Lodge made decision that American official hand should not show. Consequently, Harkins will take no initiative with VNese generals. (Conein to convey points below to Gen. Khiem; Spera to Khanh; if Khiem agrees on Conein talking to Don, he will).

(A) Solicitation of further elaboration of action aspects of present thinking and planning. What should be done?

(B) We in agreement Nhus must go.

(C) Question of retaining Diem or not up to them.

(D) Bonzes and other arrestees must be released immediately and five-point agreement of 16 June fully carried out.

(E) We will provide direct support during any interim period of breakdown central gov mechanism.

(F) We cannot be of any help during initial action of assuming power of state. Entirely their own action, win or lose. Don't expect be bailed out.

(G) If Nhus do not go and if Buddhists situation is not redressed as indicated, we would find it impossible continue military and economic support.

(H) It hoped bloodshed can be avoided or reduced to absolute minimum.

(I) It hoped that during process and after, developments conducted in such manner as to retain and increase the necessary relations between VNese and Americans which will allow for progress of country and successful prosecution of the war.

#38: C.I.A. Station Chief's Cable on Coup Prospects in Saigon

Cablegram from Mr. Richardson to Mr. McCone, Aug. 28, 1963.

Situation here has reached point of no return. Saigon is armed camp. Current indications are that Ngo family have dug in for last ditch battle. It is our considered estimate that General officers cannot retreat now. Cone in's meeting with Gen. Khiem (Saigon 0346) reveals that overwhelming majority of general officers, excepting Dinh and Cao, are united, have conducted prior planning, realize that they must proceed quickly, and understand that they have no alternative but to go forward. Unless the generals are neutralized before being able to launch their operation, we believe they will act and that they have good chance to win. If General Dinh primarily and Tung secondly cannot be neutralized at outset, there may be widespread fighting in Saigon and serious loss of life.

We recognize the crucial stakes and involved and have no doubt that the generals do also. Situation has changed drastically since 21 August. If the Ngo family wins now, they and Vietnam will stagger on to final defeat at the hands of their own people and the VC. Should a generals' revolt occur and be put down, GVN will sharply reduce American presence in SVN. Even if they did not do so, it seems clear that American public opinion and Congress, as well as world opinion, would force withdrawal or reduction of American support for VN under the Ngo administration.

Bloodshed can be avoided if the Ngo family would step down before the coming armed action. . . . It is obviously preferable that the generals conduct this effort without apparent American assistance. Otherwise, for a long time in the future, they will be vulnerable to charges of being American puppets, which they are not in any sense. Nevertheless, we all understand that the effort must succeed and that whatever needs to be done on our part must be done. If this attempt by the generals does not take place or if it fails, we believe it no exaggeration to say that VN runs serious risk of being lost over the course of time.

#39: Lodge Cable to Secretary Rusk on U.S. Policy Toward a Coup

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to Secretary Rusk, Aug. 29, 1963.

We are launched on a course from which there is no respectable turning back: the overthrow of the Diem government. There is no turning back in part because U.S. prestige is already publicly committed to this end in large measure and will become more so as the facts leak out. In a more fundamental sense, there is no turning back because there is no possibility, in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administration, still less that Diem or any member of the family can govern the country in a way to gain the support of the people who count, i.e., the educated class in and out of government service, civil and military -- not to mention the American people. In the last few months (and especially days) they have in fact positively alienated these people to an incalculable degree. So that I am personally in full agreement with the policy which I was instructed to carry out by last Sunday's telegram.

2. The chance of bringing off a Generals' coup depends on them to some extent; but it depends at least as much on us.

3. We should proceed to make all-out effort to get Generals to move promptly. To do so we should have authority to do following:

(a) That Gen. Harkins repeat to Generals personally message previously transmitted by CAS officers. This should establish their authenticity. Gen. Harkins should have order on this.

(b) If nevertheless Generals insist on public statement that all U.S. aid to VN through Diem regime has been stopped, we would agree, on express understanding that Generals will have started at same time. (We would seek persuade Generals that it would be better to hold this card for use in event of stalemate. We hope it will not be necessary to do this at all.)

(c) VNese Generals doubt that we have the will power, courage, and determination to see this thing through. They are haunted by the idea that we will run out on them even though we have told them pursuant to instructions, that the game had started.

5. We must press on for many reasons. Some of these are:

(a) Explosiveness of the present situation which may well lead to riots and violence if issue of discontent with regime is not met. Out of this could come a pro-Communist or at best a neutralist set of politicians.

(b) The fact that war cannot be won with the present regime.

(c) Our own reputation for steadfastness and our unwillingness to stultify ourselves.

(d) If proposed action is suspended, I believe a body blow will be dealt to respect for us by VNese Generals. Also, all those who expect U.S. to straighten out this situation will feel let down. Our help to the regime in past years inescapably gives a responsibility which we cannot avoid.

6. I realize that this course involves a very substantial risk of losing VN. It also involves some additional risk to American lives. I would never propose it if I felt there was a reasonable chance of holding VN with Diem.

[Point 7 unavailable.]

8. . .. Gen. Harkins thinks that I should ask Diem to get rid of the Nhus before starting the Generals' action. But I believe that such a step has no chance of getting the desired result and would have the very serious effect of being regarded by the Generals as a sign of American indecision and delay. I believe this is a risk which we should not run. The Generals distrust us too much already. Another point is that Diem would certainly ask for time to consider such a far-reaching request. This would give the ball to Nhu.

9. With the exception of par. 8 above Gen. Harkins concurs in this telegram.

#40: Rusk Cable to Lodge on Views of National Security Council

Cablegram from Secretary Rusk to Ambassador Lodge, Aug. 29, 1963. The Pentagon study says the message followed a meeting of the NationaL Security Council.

1. Highest level meeting noon today reviewed your 375 and reaffirmed basic course. Specific decisions follow:

2. In response to your recommendation, General Harkins is hereby authorized to repeat to such Generals as you indicate the messages previously transmitted by CAS officers. He should stress that the USG supports the movement to eliminate the Nhus from the government, but that before arriving at specific understandings with the generals, General Harkins must know who are involved, resources available to them and overall plan for coup. The USG will support a coup which has good chance of succeeding but plans no direct involvement of U.S. armed forces. Harkins should state that he is prepared to establish liaison with the coup planners and to review plans, but will not engage directly in joint coup planning.

3. Question of last approach to Diem remains undecided and separate personal message from Secretary to you develops our concern and asks your comment.

4. On movement of U.S. forces, we do not expect to make any announcement or leak at present and believe that any later decision to publicize such movements should be closely connected to developing events on your side. We cannot of course prevent unauthorized disclosures or speculation, but we will in any event knock down any reports of evacuation.

5. You are hereby authorized to announce suspension of aid through Diem government at a time and under conditions of your choice. In deciding upon the use of this authority, you should consider importance of timing and managing announcement so as to minimize appearance of collusion with Generals and also to minimize danger of unpredictable and disruptive reaction by existing government. We also assume that you will not in fact use this authority unless you think it essential, and we see it as possible that Harkins' approach and increasing process of cooperation may provide assurance Generals desire. Our own view is that it will be best to hold this authority for use in close conjunction with coup, and not for present encouragement of Generals, but decision is yours.

#41: Further Rusk Cable to Lodge on Diem-Nhu Relationship

Cablegram from Secretary Rusk to Ambassador Lodge, Aug. 29, 1963.

Deeply appreciate your 375 which was a most helpful clarification. We fully understand enormous stakes at issue and the heavy responsibilities which you and Harkins will be carrying in the days ahead and we want to do everything possible from our end to help.

Purpose of this message is to explore further question of possible attempt to separate Diem and the Nhus. In your telegram you appear to treat Diem and the Nhus as a single package whereas we had indicated earlier to the Generals that if the Nhus were removed the question of retaining Diem would be up to them. My own personal assessment is (and this is not an instruction) that the Nhus are by all odds the greater part of the problem in Vietnam, internally, internationally and for American public opinion. Perhaps it is inconceivable that the Nhus could be removed without taking Diem with them or without Diem's abandoning his post. In any event, I would appreciate your comment on whether any distinction can or should be drawn as between Diem and Counselor and Madame Nhu.

The only point on which you and General Harkins have different views is whether an attempt should be made with Diem to eliminate the Nhus and presumably take other steps to consolidate the country behind a winning effort against the Viet Congo My own hunch, based in part on the report of Kattenburg's conversations with Diem is that such an approach could not succeed if it were cast purely in terms of persuasion. Unless such a talk included a real sanction such as a threatened withdrawal of our support, it is unlikely that it would be taken completely seriously by a man who may feel that we are inescapably committed to an anti-Communist Vietnam. But if a sanction were used in such a conversation, there would be a high risk that this would be taken by Diem as a sign that action against him and the Nhus was imminent and he might as a minimum move against the Generals or even take some quite fantastic action such as calling on North Vietnam for assistance in expelling the Americans.

It occurs to me, therefore, that if such an approach were to be made it might properly await the time when others were ready to move immediately to constitute a new government. If this be so, the question then arises as to whether an approach to insist upon the expulsion of the Nhus should come from Americans rather than from the Generals themselves. This might be the means by which the Generals could indicate that they were prepared to distinguish between Diem and the Nhus. In any event, were the Generals to take this action it would tend to protect succeeding Vietnam administrations from the charge of being wholly American puppets subjected to whatever anti-American sentiment is inherent in so complex a situation.

I would be glad to have your further thoughts on these points as well as your views on whether further talks with Diem are contemplated to continue your opening discussions with him. You will have received formal instructions on other matters through other messages. Good luck.

#42: Lodge's Response to Rusk on Diem's Closeness to Brother

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to Secretary Rusk, Aug. 30, 1963.

I agree that getting the Nhus out is the prime objective and that they are "the greater part ... "

This surely cannot be done by working through Diem. In fact Diem will oppose it. He wishes he had more Nhus, not less.

The best chance of doing it is by the Generals taking over the government lock, stock and barrel.

After this has been done, it can then be decided whether to put Diem back in again or go on without him. I am rather inclined to put him back, but I would not favor putting heavy pressure on the Generals if they don't want him. My greatest single difficulty in carrying out the instructions of last Sunday is inertia. The days come and go and nothing happens. It is, of course, natural for the Generals to want assurances and the U.S. Government has certainly been prompt in its reactions. But here it is Friday and, while in one way much has been done, there is not yet enough to show for the hours which we have all put in.

If I call on Diem to demand the removal of the Nhus, he will surely not agree. But before turning me down, he will pretend to consider it and involve us in prolonged delays. This will make the Generals suspicious of us and add to the inertia.

Such a call by me would look to the Nhus like an ultimatum and would result in their taking steps to thwart any operation dealing with them.

I agree with you that if a sanction were used, it could provoke an even more fantastic reaction. In fact I greatly dislike the idea of cutting off aid in connection with the Generals' operation and while I thank you for giving me the authority to make an announcement, I hope I will never have to use it.

It is possible, as you suggested . . . for the Generals when, as and if their operation gets rolling to demand the removal of the Nhus before bringing their operation to fruition. But I am afraid they will get talked out of their operation which will then disintegrate, still leaving the Nhus in office.

If the Generals' operation does get rolling, I would not want to stop it until they were in full control. They could then get rid of the Nhus and decide whether they wanted to keep Diem.

It is better for them and for us for them to throw out the Nhus than for us to get involved in it.

I am sure that the best way to handle this matter is by a truly VN ese movement even if it puts me rather in the position of pushing a piece of spaghetti.

I am contemplating no further talks with Diem at this time.

#43: Cable by U.S. General in Saigon to Taylor on End of August Plot

Cablegram from Gen. Paul D. Harkins, United States commander in Saigon, to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Aug. 31, 1963.

(saw Khiem: he stated Big Minh had stopped planning at this time, and was working on other methods; others had called off planning also, himself and Khanh, following Minh. He knew Thao was making plans -- but that few of military trusted him because of his VC background-and that he might still be working for the VC. The Generals were not ready as they did not have enough forces under their control compared to those under President and now in Saigon. He indicated they, the Generals, did not want to start anything they could not successfully finish.

... At a meeting yesterday, Mr. Nhu said he now went along with everything the U.S. wants to do, and even had the backing of Pres. Kennedy. I said this was news to me. Khiem said he wondered if Nhu was again trying to flush out the generals. He intimated the generals do not have too much trust in Nhu and that he's such a friend of Mr. Richardson the generals wonder if Mr. Nhu and Mme. Nhu were on the CIA payroll ....

... I asked if someone couldn't confront the Nhus with the fact that their absence from the scene was the key to the overall solution. He replied that for anyone to do that would be self-immolation -- he also went on to say he doubted if the Nhus and Diem could be split.

... So we see we have an "organisation de confusion" with everyone suspicious of everyone else and none desiring to take any positive action as of right now. You can't hurry the East. ...

#44: Memo on Washington Meeting in Aftermath of August Plot

Memorandum by Maj. Gen. Victor H. Krulak, special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for counterinsurgency and special activities, on a meeting at the State Department Aug. 31, 1963. Besides General Krulak, participants were Vice President Johnson; Secretary Rusk; Secretary Mc- Namara; Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric; McGeorge Bundy; General Taylor; Edward R. Murrow, director of the United States Information Agency; Lieut. Gen. Marshall S. Carter, Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Richard Helms and William E. Colby of the C.I.A.; Frederick E. Nolting Jr., former Ambassador in Saigon; Assistant Secretary Hilsman, and Paul M. Kattenburg of the State Department, head of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Vietnam.

1. Secretary Rusk stated that, in his judgment, we were back to where we were about Wednesday of last week, and this causes him to go back to the original problem and ask what in the situation led us to think well of a coup. Ruling out hatred of the Nhus, he said, there would appear to be three things:

a. The things that the Nhus had done or supported, which tended to upset the GVN internally.

b. The things that they had done which had an adverse external effect.

c. The great pressures of U.S. public opinion.

2. Mr. Rusk then asked if we should not pick up Ambassador Lodge's suggestion in his message of today (Saigon 391) and determine what steps are required to re-gird solidarity in South Vietnam -- such as improvement in conditions concerning students and Buddhists and the possible departure of Madame Nhu. He said that we should determine what additional measures are needed to improve the international situation -- such as problems affecting Cambodia -- and to improve the Vietnamese position wherein U.S. public opinion is concerned. He then said that he is reluctant to start off by saying now that Nhu has to go; that it is unrealistic.

3. Mr. McNamara stated that he favored the above proposals of the Secretary of State, with one additional step -- that is to establish quickly and firmly our line of communication between Lodge, Harkins and the GVN. He pointed out that at the moment our channels of communication are essentially broken and that they should be reinstituted at all costs.

4. Mr. Rusk added that we must do our best not to permit Diem to decapitate his military command in light of its obviously adverse effect on the prosecution of the war. At this point he asked if anyone present had any doubt in his mind but that the coup was off.

5. Mr. Kattenburg said that he had some remaining doubt; that we have not yet sent the generals a strong enough message; that the BOA statement regarding the withdrawal of aid was most important, but that we repudiated it too soon. He stated further that the group should take note of the fact that General Harkins did not carry out his instructions with respect to communication with the generals. Mr. Rusk interrupted Kattenburg to state that, to the contrary, he believed Harkins' conduct was exactly correct in light of the initial response which he received from General Khiem (they were referring to Harkins' report in MACV 1583).

6. Mr. Hilsman commented that, in his view, the generals are not now going to move unless they are pressed by a revolt from below. In this connection Ambassador Nolting warned that in the uncoordinated Vietnamese structure anything can happen, and that while an organized successful coup is out, there might be small flurries by irresponsible dissidents at any time.

7. Mr. Hilsman undertook to present four basic factors which bear directly on the problem confronting the U.S. now. They are, in his view:

a. The mood of the people, particularly the middle level officers, non-commissioned officers and middle level bureaucrats, who are most restive. Mr. McNamara interrupted to state that he had seen no evidence of this and General Taylor commented that he had seen none either, but would like to see such evidence as Hilsman could produce. Mr. Kattenburg commented that the middle level officers and bureaucrats are uniformly critical of the government, to which Mr. McNamara commented that if this indeed be the fact we should know about it.

b. The second basic factor, as outlined by Hilsman, was what effect will be felt on our programs elsewhere in Asia if we acquiesce to a strong Nhu-dominated government. In this connection, he reported that there is a Korean study now underway on just how much repression the United States will tolerate before pulling out her aid. Mr. McNamara stated that he had not seen this study and would be anxious to have it.

c. The third basic factor is Mr. Nhu, his personality and his policy. Hilsman recalled that Nhu has once already launched an effort aimed at withdrawal of our province advisors and stated that he is sure he is in conversation with the French. He gave, as supporting evidence, the content of an intercepted message, which Mr. Bundy asked to see. Ambassador Nolting expressed the opinion that Nhu will not make a deal with Ho Chi Minh on Ho's terms.

d. The fourth point is the matter of U.S. and world opinion, Hilsman stated that this problem was moving to a political and diplomatic plane. Part of the problem, he said, is the press, which concludes incorrectly that we have the ability to change the things in Vietnam of which they are critical. To this Mr. Murrow added that this problem of press condemnation is now worldwide.

8. Mr. Kattenburg stated that as recently as last Thursday it was the belief of Ambassador Lodge that, if we undertake to live with this repressive regime, with its bayonets at every street corner and its transparent negotiations with puppet bonzes, we are going to be thrown out of the country in six months. He stated that at this juncture it would be better for us to make the decision to get out honorably. He went on to say that, having been acquainted with Diem for ten years, he was deeply disappointed in him, saying that he will not separate from his brother. It was Kattenburg's view that Diem will get very little support from the military and, as time goes on, he will get less and less support and the country will go steadily down hill.

9. General Taylor asked what Kattenburg meant when he said that we would be forced out of Vietnam within six months. Kattenburg replied that in from six months to a year, as the people see we are losing the war, they will gradually go to the other side and we will be obliged to leave. Ambassador Nolting expressed general disagreement with Mr. Kattenburg. He said that the unfavorable activity which motivated Kattenburg's remarks was confined to the city and, while city support of Diem is doubtless less now, it is not greatly so. He said that it is improper to overlook the fact that we have done a tremendous job toward winning the Vietnam war, working with this same imperfect, annoying government.

10. Mr. Kattenburg added that there is one new factor -- the population, which was in high hopes of expelling the Nhus after the VOA announcement regarding cessation of aid; now, under the heel of Nhu's military repression, they would quickly lose heart.

11. Secretary Rusk commented that Kattenburg's recital was largely speculative; that it would be far better for us to start on the firm basis of two things -- that we will not pull out of Vietnam until the war is won, and that we will not run a coup. Mr. McNamara expressed agreement with this view.

12. Mr. Rusk then said that we should present questions to Lodge which fall within these parameters. He added that he believes we have good proof that we have been winning the war, particularly the contrast between the first six months of 1962 and the first six months of 1963. He then asked the Vice President if he had any contribution to make.

13. The Vice President stated that he agreed with Secretary Rusk's conclusions completely; that he had great reservations himself with respect to a coup, particularly so because he had never really seen a genuine alternative to Diem. He stated that from both a practical and a political viewpoint, it would be a disaster to pull out; that we should stop playing cops and robbers and get back to talking straight to the GVN, and that we should once again go about winning the war. He stated that after our communications with them are genuinely reestablished, it may be necessary for someone to talk rough to them -- perhaps General Taylor. He said further that he had been greatly impressed with Ambassador Nolting's views and agreed with Mr. McNamara's conclusions.

14. General Taylor raised the question of whether we should change the disposition of the forces which had been set in motion as a result of the crisis. It was agreed that there should be no change in the existing disposition for the time being.

#45: While House Cable to Lodge on Pressure for Saigon Reforms

Cablegram from White House to Ambassador Lodge, Sept. 17, 1963. The Pentagon study says this message followed a meeting of the National Security Council but adds, "There is no evidence on the degree of consensus of the principals in this decision."

1. Highest level meeting today has approved broad outline of an action proposals program designed to obtain from GVN, if possible, reforms and changes in personnel necessary to maintain support of Vietnamese and US opinion in war against Viet Congo This cable reports this program and our thinking for your comment before a final decision. Your comment requested soonest.

2. We see no good opportunity for action to remove present government in immediate future; therefore, as your most recent messages suggest, we must for the present apply such pressures as are available to secure whatever modest improvements on the scene may be possible. We think it likely that such improvements can make a difference, at least in the short run. Such a course, moreover, is consistent with more drastic effort as and when means become available, and we will be in touch on other channels on this problem.

3. We share view in your 523 that best available reinforcement to your bargaining position in this interim period is clear evidence that all U.S. assistance is granted only on your say-so. Separate telegram discusses details of this problem, but in this message we specifically authorize you to apply any controls you think helpful for this purpose. You are authorized to delay any delivery of supplies or transfer of funds by any agency until you are satisfied that delivery is in U.S. interest, bearing in mind that it is not our current policy to cut off aid, entirely. In other words, we share your view that it will be helpful for GVN to understand that your personal approval is a necessary part of all U.S. assistance. We think it may be particularly desirable for you to use this authority in limiting or rerouting any and all forms of assistance and support which now go to or through Nhu or individuals like Tung who are associated with him. This authorization specifically includes aid actions currently held in abeyance and you are authorized to set those in train or hold them up further in your discretion. We leave entirely in your hands decisions on the degree of privacy or publicity you wish to give to this process.

4. Subject to your comment and amendment our own list of possible helpful action by government runs as follows in approximate order of importance:

A. Clear the air -- Diem should get everyone back to work and get them to focus on winning the war. He should be broadminded and compassionate in his attitude toward those who have, for understandable reasons, found it difficult under recent circumstances fully to support him. A real spirit of reconciliation could work wonders on the people he leads; a punitive, harsh or autocratic attitude could only lead to further resistance.

B. Buddhists and students -- Let them out and leave them unmolested. This more than anything else would demonstrate the return of a better day and the refocusing on the main job at hand, the war.

C. Press -- The press should be allowed full latitude of expression. Diem will be criticized, but leniency and cooperation with the domestic and foreign press at this time would bring praise for his leadership in due course. While tendentious reporting is irritating, suppression of news leads to much more serious trouble.

D. Secret and combat police -- Confine its role to operations against the VC and abandon operations against non-Communist opposition groups thereby indicating clearly that a period of reconciliation and political stability has returned.

E. Cabinet changes to inject new untainted blood, remove targets of popular discontent.

F. Elections -- These should be held, should be free, and should be widely observed.

G. Assembly -- Assembly should be convoked soon after the elections. The Government should submit its policies to it and should receive its confidence. An assembly resolution would be most useful for external image purposes.

H. Party -- Can Lao party should not be covert or semi-covert but a broad association of supporters engaged in a common, winning cause. This could perhaps be best accomplished by

I. Repeal or suitable amendment Decree 10.

J. Rehabilitation by ARVN of pagodas.

K. Establishment of Ministry of Religious Affairs.

L. Liberation of passport issuances and currency restrictions enabling all to leave who wish to.

M. Acceptance of Buddhist Inquiry Mission from World Federation to report true facts of situation to world.

5. You may wish to add or subtract from the above list, but need to set psychological tone and image is paramount. Diem has taken positive actions in past of greater or less scope than those listed, but they have had little practical political effect since they were carried out in such a way as to make them hollow or, even if real, unbelievable (e.g., martial law already nominally lifted, Assembly elections scheduled, and puppet bonzes established).

6. Specific "reforms" are apt to have little impact without dramatic, symbolic move which convinces Vietnamese that reforms are real. As practical matter we share your views that this can best be achieved by some visible reduction in influence of Nhus, who are symbol to disaffected of all that they dislike in GVN. This we think would require Nhus' departure from Saigon and preferably Vietnam at least for extended vacation. We recognize the strong possibility that these and other pressures may not produce this result, but we are convinced that it is necessary to try.

7. In Washington, in this phase, we would plan to maintain a posture of disapproval of recent GVN actions, but we would not expect to make public our specific requests of Diem. Your comment on public aspects of this phase is particularly needed.

8. We note your reluctance to continue dialogue with Diem until you have more to say, but we continue to believe that discussions with him are at a minimum an important source of intelligence and may conceivably be a means of exerting some persuasive effect even in his present state of mind. If you believe that full control of U.S. assistance provides you with means of resuming dialogue, we hope you will do so. We ourselves can see much virtue in effort to reason even with an unreasonable man when he is on a collision course. We repeat, however, that this is a matter for your judgment.

9. Meanwhile, there is increasing concern here with strictly military aspects of the problem, both in terms of actual progress of operations and of need to make effective case with Congress for continued prosecution of the effort. To meet these needs, President has decided to send Secretary of Defense and General Taylor to Vietnam, arriving early next week. It will be emphasized here that it is a military mission and that all political decisions are being handled through you as President's Senior Representative.

10. We repeat that political program outlined above awaits your comment before final decision. President particularly emphasizes that it is fully open to your criticism and amendment. It is obviously an interim plan and further decisions may become necessary very soon.

#46: Lodge Cable to Kennedy on Means of Bringing Reforms

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to State Department "for President only," Sept. 19, 1963.

1. Agree that no good opportunity for action to remove present government in immediate future is apparent and that we should, therefore, do whatever we can as an interim measure pending such an eventuality.

2. Virtually all the topics under paragraph 4, letters A to M, have been taken up with Diem and Nhu at one time or another, most of them by me personally. They think that most of them would either involve destroying the political structure on which they rest or loss of face or both. We, therefore, could not realistically hope for more than lip service. Frankly, I see no opportunity at all for substantive changes. Detailed comments on items A to M are contained in separate telegram.

3. There are signs that Diem-Nhu are somewhat bothered by my silence. According to one well placed source, they are guessing and off-balance and "desperately anxious" to know what U.S. posture is to be. They may be preparing some kind of a public relations package, possibly to be opened after the elections. I believe that for me to press Diem on things which are not in the cards and to repeat what we have said several times already would be a little shrill and would make us look weak, particularly in view of my talk with Nhu last night at a dinner where I had a golden opportunity to make the main points of your CAP 63516 as reported in 541.

4. Also, I doubt that a public relations package will meet needs of situation which seems particularly grave to me, notably in the light of General Big Minh's opinion expressed very privately yesterday that the Viet Cong are steadily gaining in strength; have more of the population on their side than has the GVN; that arrests are continuing and that the prisons are full; that more and more students are going over to the Viet Cong; that there is great graft and corruption in the Vietnamese administration of our aid; and that the "Heart of the Army is not in the war." All this by Vietnamese No. 1 General is now echoed by Secretary of Defense Thuan (See my 542), who wants to leave the country.

5. As regards your paragraph 3 on withholding of aid, I still hope that I may be informed of methods, as requested in my 478, September 11, which will enable us to apply sanctions in a way which will really affect Diem and Nhu without precipitating an economic collapse and without impeding the war effort. We are studying this here and have not yet found a solution. If a way to do this were to be found, it would be one of the greatest discoveries since the enactment of the Marshall Plan in 1947 because, so far as I know, the U.S. had never yet been able to control any of the very unsatisfactory governments through which we have had to work in our many very successful attempts to make these countries strong enough to stand alone.

6. I also believe that whatever sanctions we may discover should be directly tied to a promising coup d'etat and should not be applied without such a coup being in prospect. In this connection, I believe that we should pursue contact with Big Minh and urge him along if he looks like acting. I particularly think that the idea of supporting a Vietnamese Army independent of the government should be energetically studied.

7. I will, of course, give instructions that programs which one [sic] can be effectively held up should be held up and not released without my approval provided that this can be done without serious harmful effect to the people and to the war effort. Technical assistance and (omission) support to communications support programs may be one way. This would be a fly-speck in the present situation and would have no immediate effect, but I hope that U.S. (omission) may get Vietnamese officials into the habit of asking me to release items which are held up and that, over a long period of time, it might create opportunities for us to get little things done.

8. But it is not even within the realm of possibility that such a technique could lead them to do anything which causes loss of face or weakening of their political organization. In fact, to threaten them with suppression of aid might well defeat our purposes and might make a bad situation very much worse.

9. There should in any event be no publicity whatever about this procedure. If it is possible (omission) a program, I intend to (omission).

10. As regards your paragraph 6 and "dramatic symbolic moves," I really do not think they could understand this even if Thao wanted to, although I have talked about it to Diem, and to Nhu last night (See my 541). They have scant comprehension of what it is to appeal to public opinion as they have really no interest in any other opinion than their own. I have repeatedly brought up the question of Nhu's departure and have stressed that if he would just stay away until after Christmas, it might help get the Appropriation Bill through. This seems like a small thing to us but to them it seems tremendous as they are quite sure that the Army would take over if he even stepped out of the country.

11. Your paragraph 8. I have, of course, no objection to seeing Diem at any time that it would be helpful. But I would rather let him sweat for awhile and not go to see him unless I have something really new to bring up. I would much prefer to wait until I find some part of the AID program to hold up in which he is interested and then have him ask me to come and see him. For example, last night's dinner which I suspect Nhu of stimulating is infinitely better than for me to take the initiative for an appointment and to call at the office. Perhaps my silence had something to do with it.

#47: McNamara-Taylor Report on Mission to South Vietnam

Excerpts from memorandum for President Kennedy from Secretary McNamara and General Taylor, dated Oct. 2, 1963, and headed "Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam."


1. The military campaign has made great progress and continues to progress.

2. There are serious political tensions in Saigon (and perhaps elsewhere in South Vietnam) where the Diem-Nhu government is becoming increasingly unpopular.

3. There is no solid evidence of the possibility of a successful coup, although assassination of Diem or Nhu is always a possibility.

4. Although some, and perhaps an increasing number, of GVN military officers are becoming hostile to the government, they are more hostile to the Viet Cong than to the government and at least for the near future they will continue to perform their military duties.

5. Further repressive actions by Diem and Nhu could change the present favorable military trends. On the other hand, a return to more moderate methods of control and administration, unlikely though it may be, would substantially mitigate the political crisis.

6. It is not clear that pressures exerted by the U.S. will move Diem and Nhu toward moderation. Indeed, pressures may increase their obduracy. But unless such pressures are exerted, they are almost certain to continue past patterns of behavior.


We recommend that:

1. General Harkins review with Diem the military changes necessary to complete the military campaign in the Northern and Central areas (I, II, and III Corps) by the end of 1954, and in the Delta (IV Corps) by the end of 1965. This review would consider the need for such changes as:

a. A further shift of military emphasis and strength to the Delta (IV Corps).

b. An increase in the military tempo in all corps areas, so that all combat troops are in the Field an average of 20 days out of 30 and static missions are ended.

c. Emphasis on "clear and hold operations" instead of terrain sweeps which have little permanent value.

d. The expansion of personnel in combat units to full authorized strength.

e. The training and arming of hamlet militia at an accelerated rate, especially in the Delta.

f. A consolidation of the strategic hamlet program, especially in the Delta, and action to insure that future strategic hamlets are not built until they can be protected, and until civic action programs can be introduced.

2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.

3. In accordance with the program to train progressively Vietnamese to take over military functions, the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace U.S. personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort.

4. The following actions be taken to impress upon Diem our disapproval of his political program.

a. Continue to withhold commitment of funds in the commodity import program, but avoid a formal announcement. The potential significance of the withholding of commitments for the 1964 military budget should be brought home to the top military officers in working level contacts between USOM and MAVC and the Joint General Staff; up to now we have stated $95 million may be used by the Vietnamese as a planning level for the commodity import program for 1964. Henceforth we could make clear that this is uncertain both because of lack of final appropriation action by the Congress and because of executive policy.

b. Suspend approval of the pending AID loans for the Saigon- Cholon Waterworks and Saigon Electric Power Project. We should state clearly that we are doing so as a matter of policy.

c. Advise Diem that MAP and CIA support for designated units, now under Colonel Tung's control (mostly held in or near the Saigon area for political reasons) and will be cut off unless these units are promptly assigned to the full authority of the Joint General Staff and transferred to the field.

d. Maintain the present purely "correct" relations with the top GVN, and specifically between the Ambassador and Diem. Contact between General Harkins and Diem and Defense Secretary Thuan on military matters should not, however, be suspended, as this remains an important channel of advice. USOM and USIA should also seek to maintain contacts where these are needed to push forward programs in support of the effort in the field, while taking care not to cut across the basic picture of U.S. disapproval and uncertainty of U.S. aid intentions. We should work with the Diem government but not support it. . . .

As we pursue these courses of action, the situation must be closely watched to see what steps Diem is taking to reduce repressive practices and to improve the effectiveness of the military effort. We should set no fixed criteria, but recognize that we would have to decide in 2-4 months whether to move to more drastic action or try to carryon with Diem even if he had not taken significant steps.

5. At this time, no initiative should be taken to encourage actively a change in government. Our policy should be to seek urgently to identify and build contacts with an alternative leadership if and when it appears.

6. The following statement be approved as current U.S. policy toward South Vietnam and constitute the substance of the government position to be presented both in Congressional testimony and in public statements.

a. The security of South Vietnam remains vital to United States security. For this reason, we adhere to the overriding objective of denying this country to Communism and of suppressing the Viet Cong insurgency as promptly as possible. (By suppressing the insurgency we mean reducing it to proportions manageable by the national security forces of the GVN, unassisted by the presence of U.S. military forces.) We believe the U.S. part of the task can be completed by the end of 1965, the terminal date which we are taking as the time objective of our counterinsurgency programs.

b. The military program in Vietnam has made progress and is sound in principle.

c. The political situation in Vietnam remains deeply serious. It has not yet significantly affected the military effort, but could do so at some time in the future. If the result is a GVN ineffective in the conduct of the war, the U.S. will review its attitude toward support for the government. Although we are deeply concerned by repressive practices, effective performance in the conduct of the war should be the determining factor in our relations with the GVN.

d. The U.S. has expressed its disapproval of certain actions of the Diem-Nhu regime will do so again if required. Our policy is to seek to bring about the abandonment of repression because of its effect on the popular will to resist. Our means consist of expressions of disapproval and the withholding of support from the GVN activities that are not clearly contributing to the war effort. We will use these means as required to assure an effective military program ....
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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#48: Lodge Message on Meeting of C.I.A. Agent with Gen. Minh

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to the State Department, Oct. 5, 1963.

I. Lt. CoJ. Conein met with Gen Duong Van Minh at Gen. Minh's Headquarters on Le Van Duyet for one hour and ten minutes morning of 5 Oct 63. This meeting was at the initiative of Gen Minh and has been specifically cleared in advance by Ambassador Lodge. No other persons were present. The conversation was conducted in French.

2. Gen. Minh stated that he must know American Government's position with respect to a change in the Government of Vietnam within the very near future. Gen. Minh added the Generals were aware of the situation is deteriorating rapidly and that action to change the Government must be taken or the war will be lost to the Viet Cong because the Government no longer has the support of the people. Gen. Minh identified among the other Generals participating with him in this plan:

Maj. Gen. Tran Van Don

Brig. Gen. Tran Thien Khiem

Maj. Gen. Tran Van Kim

3. Gen. Minh made it clear that he did not expect any specific American support for an effort on the part of himself and his colleagues to change the Government but he states he does need American assurances that the USG will not rpt not attempt to thwart this plan.

4. Gen. Minh also stated that he himself has no political ambitions nor do any of the other General Officers except perhaps, he said laughingly, Gen. Ton That Dinh. Gen. Minh insisted that his only purpose is to win the war. He added emphatically that to do this continuation of American Military and Economic Aid at the present level (he said one and one half million dollars per day) is necessary.

5. Gen. Minh outlined three possible plans for the accomplishment of the change of Government:

a. Assassination of Ngo Dinh Nhu and Ngo Dinh Can keeping President Diem in Office. Gen Minh said this was the easiest plan to accomplish.

b. The encirclement of Saigon by various military units particularly the unit at Ben Cat.

c. Direct confrontation between military units involved in the coup and loyalist military units in Saigon. In effect, dividing the city of Saigon into sectors and cleaning it out pocket by pocket. Gen. Minh claims under the circumstances Diem and Nhu could count on the loyalty of 5,500 troops within the city of Saigon.

6. Conein replied to Gen. Minh that he could not answer specific questions as to USG non-interference nor could he give any advice with respect to tactical planning. He added that he could not advise concerning the best of the three plans.

7. Gen. Minh went on to explain that the most dangerous men in South Viet-Nam are Ngo Dinh Nhu, Ngo Dinh Can and Ngo Trong Hieu. Minh stated that Hieu was formerly a Communist and still has Communist sympathies. When Col. Conein remarked that he had considered Co!. Tung as one of the more dangerous individuals, Gen. Minh stated 'if I get rid of Nhu, Can and Hieu, Col. Tung will be on his knees before me."

8. Gen. Minh also stated that he was worried as to the role of Gen. Tran Thien Khiem since Khiem may have played a double role in August. Gen. Minh asked that copies of the documents previously passed to Gen. Khiem (plan of Camp Long Thanh and munitions inventory at that camp) be passed to Gen. Minh personally for comparison with papers passed by Khiem to Minh purportedly from CAS.

9. Minh further stated that one of the reasons they are having to act quickly was the fact that many regimental, battalion and company commanders are working on coup plans of their own which could be abortive and a "catastrophe."

10. Minh appeared to understand Conein's position of being unable to comment at the present moment but asked that Conein again meet with Gen. Minh to discuss the specific plan of operations which Gen. Minh hopes to put into action. No specific date was given for this next meeting. Conein was again noncommittal in his reply. Gen. Minh once again indicated his understanding and stated that he would arrange to contact Conein in the near future and hoped that Conein would be able to meet with him and give the assurance outlined above.

#49: Further Lodge Comments to Rusk

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to Secretary Rusk, Oct. 5, 1963.

Reference Big Minh-Conein meeting (CAS Saigon 1455). While neither General Harkins nor I have great faith in Big Minh, we need instructions on his approach. My recommendation, in which General Harkins concurs, is that Cone in when next approached by Minh should:

1. Assure him that U.S. will not attempt to thwart his plans.

2. Offer to review his plans, other than assassination plans.

3. Assure Minh that U.S. aid will be continued to Vietnam under Government which gives promise of gaining support of people and winning the war against the Communists. Point out that it is our view that this is most likely to be the case if Government includes good proportion of well qualified civilian leaders in key positions. (Conein should press Minh for details his thinking Re composition future Government). I suggest the above be discussed with Secretary McNamara and General Taylor who contacted Minh in recent visit.

#50: Kennedy Position on Coup Plots

Cablegram from White House to Ambassador Lodge, transmitted on Central Intelligence Agency channel, Oct. 5, 1963. The Pentagon study says this message emanated from a meeting of the National Security Council.

In conjunction with decisions and recommendations in separate EPTEL, President today approved recommendation that no initiative should now be taken to give any active covert encouragement to a coup. There should, however, be urgent covert effort with closest security, under broad guidance of Ambassador to identify and build contacts with possible alternative leadership as and when it appears. Essential that this effort be totally secure and fully deniable and separated entirely from normal political analysis and reporting and other activities of country team. We repeat that this effort is not repeat not to be aimed at active promotion of coup but only at surveillance and readiness. In order to provide plausibility to denial suggest you and no one else in Embassy issue these instructions orally to Acting Station Chief and hold him responsible to you alone for making appropriate contacts and reporting to you alone.

All reports to Washington on this subject should be on this channel.

#51: White House Cable for Lodge on Response to Gen. Minh

Cablegram from White House to Ambassador Lodge, Oct. 6, 1963.

1. Believe CAP 63560 gives general guidance requested REFTEL. We have following additional general thoughts which have been discussed with President. While we do not wish to stimulate coup, we also do not wish to leave impression that U.S. would thwart a change of government or deny economic and military assistance to a new regime if it appeared capable of increasing effectiveness of military effort, ensuring popular support to win war and improving working relations with U.S. We would like to be informed on what is being contemplated but we should avoid being drawn into reviewing or advising on operational plans or any other act which might tend to identify U.S. too closely with change in government. We would, however, welcome information which would help us assess character of any alternate leadership.

2. With reference to specific problem of General Minh you should seriously consider having contact take position that in present state his knowledge he is unable present Minh's case to responsible policy officials with any degree of seriousness. In order to get responsible officials even to consider Minh's problem, contact would have to have detailed information clearly indicating that Minh's plans offer a high prospect of success. At present contact sees no such prospect in the information so far provided.

3. You should also consider with Acting Station Chief whether it would be desirable in order to preserve security and deniability in this as well as similar approaches to others whether appropriate arrangements could be made for follow-up contacts by individuals brought in especially from outside Vietnam. As we indicated in CAP 63560 we are most concerned about security problem and we are confining knowledge these sensitive matters in Washington to extremely limited group, high officials in White House, State, Defense and CIA with whom this message cleared.

#52: Lodge Message to Bundy on Dealings with Generals

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to McGeorge Bundy, Oct. 25, 1963.

1. I appreciate the concern expressed by you in ref. a relative to the Gen. Don/Conein relationship, and also the present lack of firm intelligence on the details of the general's plot. I hope that ref. b will assist in clearing up some of the doubts relative to general's plans, and I am hopeful that the detailed plans promised for two days before the coup attempt will clear up any remaining doubts.

2. CAS has been punctilious in carrying out my instructions. I have personally approved each meeting between Gen. Don and Conein who has carried out my orders in each instance explicitly. While I share your concern about the continued involvement of Conein in this matter, a suitable substitute for Conein as the principal contact is not presently available. Conein, as you know, is a friend of some eighteen years' standing with Gen. Don, and General Don has expressed extreme reluctance to deal with anyone else. I do not believe the involvement of another American in close contact with the generals would be productive. We are, however, considering the feasibility of a plan for the introduction of an additional officer as a cut-out between Conein and a designee of Gen. Don for communication purposes only. This officer is completely unwitting of any details of past or present coup activities and will remain so.

3. With reference to Gen. Harkins' comment to Gen. Don which Don reports to have referred to a presidential directive and the proposal for a meeting with me, this may have served the useful purpose of allaying the General's fears as to our interest. If this were a provocation, the GVN could have assumed and manufactured any variations of the same theme. As a precautionary measure, however, I of course refused to see Gen. Don. As to the lack of information as to General Don's real backing, and the lack of evidence that any real capabilities for action have been developed, ref. b provides only part of the answer. I feel sure that the reluctance of the generals to provide the U.S. with full details of their plans at this time, is a reflection of their own sense of security and a lack of confidence that in the large American community present in Saigon their plans will not be prematurely revealed.

4. The best evidence available to the Embassy, which I grant you is not as complete as we would like it, is that Gen. Don and the other generals involved with him are seriously attempting to effect a change in the government. I do not believe that this is a provocation by Ngo Dinh Nhu, although we shall continue to assess the planning as well as possible. In the event that the coup aborts, or in the event that Nhu has masterminded a provocation, I believe that our involvement to date through Conein is still within the realm of plausible denial. CAS is perfectly prepared to have me disavow Conein at any time it may serve the national interest.

5. I welcome your reaffirming instructions contained in CAS Washington 74228. It is vital that we neither thwart a coup nor that we are even in a position where we do not know what is going on.

6. We should not thwart a coup for two reasons. First, it seems at least an even bet that the next government would not bungle and stumble as much as the present one has. Secondly, it is extremely unwise in the long range for us to pour cold water on attempts at a coup, particularly when they are just in their beginning stages. We should remember that this is the only way in which the people in Vietnam can possibly get a change of government. Whenever we thwart attempts at a coup, as we have done in the past, we are incurring very long lasting resentments, we are assuming an undue responsibility for keeping the incumbents in office, and in general are setting ourselves in judgment over the affairs of Vietnam. Merely to keep in touch with this situation and a policy merely limited to "not thwarting" are courses both of which entail some risks but these are lesser risks than either thwarting all coups while they are stillborn or our not being informed of what is happening. All the above is totally distinct from not wanting U.S. military advisors to be distracted by matters which are not in their domain, with which I heartily agree. But obviously this does not conflict with a policy of not thwarting. In judging proposed coups, we must consider the effect on the war effort. Certainly a succession of fights for control of the Government of Vietnam would interfere with the war effort. It must also be said that the war effort has been interfered with already by the incompetence of the present government and the uproar which this has caused.

7. Gen. Don's intention to have no religious discrimination in a future government is commendable and I applaud his desire not to be "a vassal" of the U.S. But I do not think his promise of a democratic election is realistic. This country simply is not ready for that procedure. I would add two other requirements. First, that there be no wholesale purges of personnel in the government. Individuals who were particularly reprehensible could be dealt with later by the regular legal process. Then I would be impractical, but I am thinking of a government which might include Tri Quang and which certainly should include men of the stature of Mr. Buu, the labor leader.

8. Copy to Gen. Harkins.

#53: Bundy's Reply on Coup Hazards

Cablegram from McGeorge Bundy to Ambassador Lodge, Oct. 25, 1963.

Your 1964 most helpful.

We will continue to be grateful for all additional information giving increased clarity to prospects of action by Don or others, and we look forward to discussing with you the whole question of control and cut-out on your return, always assuming that one of these D-Days does not turn out to be real. We are particularly concerned about hazard that an unsuccessful coup, however carefully we avoid direct engagement, will be laid at our door by public opinion almost everywhere. Therefore, while sharing your view that we should not be in position of thwarting coup, we would like to have option of judging and warning on any plan with poor prospects of success. We recognize that this is a large order, but President wants you to know of our concern.

#54: Harkins Message to Taylor Voicing Doubts on Plot

Cablegram from General Harkins in Saigon to General Taylor, Oct. 30, 1963.

Your JCS 4188-63 arrived as I was in the process of drafting one for you along the same lines. I share your concern. I have not as yet seen Saigon 768. I sent to the Embassy for a copy at 0830 this morning -- as of now 1100 -- the Embassy has not released it. Also CINCPAC 0-300040Z infor JCS came as a surprise to me as I am unaware of any change in local situation which indicates necessity for actions directed. Perhaps I'll find the answer in Saigon 768. Or perhaps actions directed in CINCPAC 300040Z are precautionary in light of Gen. Don's statement reported in CAS 1925 that a coup would take place in any case not later than 2 November. It might be noted Don also is supposed to have said CAS Saigon 1956 -- that though the coup committee would not release the details, the Ambassador would receive the complete plan for study two days prior to the scheduled times for the coup.

I have not been informed by the Ambassador that he has received any such plan. I talked to him yesterday on my return from Bangkok and he offered no additional information. He has agreed to keep me completely informed if anything new turns up. Incidentally he leaves for Washington tomorrow (31st) afternoon. If the coup [one word illegible] to happen before the second he's hardly going to get two days notice.

One thing I have found out, Don is either lying or playing both ends against the middle. What he told me is diametrically opposed to what he told Col. Conein. He [word illegible] Conein the coup will be before November 2nd. He told me he was not planning a coup. I sat with Don and Big Minh for 2 hours during the parade last Saturday. No one mentioned coups. To go on:

Both CAS Saigon 1896 and 1925 were sent first and delivered to me after dispatch. My 1991 was discussed with the Ambassador prior to dispatch. My 1993 was not, basically because I had not seen CAS Saigon 1925 before dispatch and I just wanted to get the record straight from my side and where my name was involved.

The Ambassador and I are certainly in touch with each other but whether the communications between us are effective is something else. I will say Cabot's methods of operations are entirely different from Amb Nolting's as far as reporting in the [word illegible] is concerned.

Fritz would always clear messages concerning the military with me or my staff prior to dispatch. So would John Richardson if MACV was concerned. This is not [word illegible] today. Cite CAS 1896 and 1925 for examples. Also you will recall I was not the recipient of several messages you held when you were here.

CINCPAC brought this matter up again when I saw him in Bangkok, this past [word illegible] end. He is going to make a check when he returns to see if he holds messages I [word illegible] not received. Have just received Saigon 768. I will have to report you are correct in believing that the Ambassador is forwarding military reports and evaluation [word illegible] consulting me. For his weekly report to the President, at his request, I furnish [word illegible] a short military statement. For preparation of 768 I made no mention of the [word illegible] I will answer 768 separately today.

There is a basic difference apparently between the Ambassador's thinking and mine on the interpretation of the guidance contained in CAP 63560 dated 6 October and the additional thoughts, I repeat, thoughts expressed in CAS Washington 74228 dated 9 October. I interpret CAP 63560 as our basic guidance and that CAS 74228 being additional thoughts did not change the basic guidance in that no initiative should now be taken to give any active covert encouragement to a coup. The Ambassador feels that 74228 does change 63560 and that a change of government is desired and feels as stated in CAS Saigon 1964 that the only way to bring about such a change is by a coup.

I'm not opposed to a change in government, no indeed, but I'm inclined to feel that at this time the change should be in methods of governing rather than complete change of personnel. I have seen no batting order proposed by any of the coup groups. I think we should take a hard look at any proposed list before we make any decisions. In my contacts here I have seen no one with the strength of character of Diem, at least in fighting Communists. Certainly there are no Generals qualified to take over in my opinion.

I am not a Diem man per se. I certainly see the faults in his character. I am here to back 14 million SVN people in their fight against communism and it just happens that Diem is their leader at this time. Most of the Generals I have talked to agree they can go along with Diem, all say it's the Nhu family they are opposed to.

Perhaps the pressures we have begun to apply will cause Diem and Nhu to change their ways. This apparently not evident as yet. I'm sure the pressures we have begun to apply if continued will affect the war effort. To date they have not. I am watching this closely and will report when I think they have.

I do not agree with the Ambassador's assessment in 768 that we are just holding our own. The GVN is a way ahead in the I, II and parts of the III Corps and making progress in the Delta. Nothing has happened in October to change the assessment you and Secretary McNamara made after your visit here.

I would suggest we not try to change horses too quickly. That we continue to take persuasive actions that will make the horses change their course and methods of action. That we win the military effort as quickly as possible, then let them make any and all the changes they want.

After all, rightly or wrongly, we have backed Diem for eight long hard years. To me it seems incongruous now to get him down, kick him around and get rid of him. The U.S. has been his mother superior and father confessor since he's been in office and he has leaned on us heavily.

Leaders of other under-developed countries will take a dim view of our assistance if they too were led to believe the same fate lies in store for them.

#55: Further Harkins Comments to General Taylor

Cablegram from General Harkins to General Taylor, Oct. 30, 1963.

1. Admiral Felt not addee [sic] this message but will be provided copy upon his arrival Saigon tomorrow.

2. I now hold copy of SAIGON 768 and this amplifies my MAC 2028 which initially responded to your JCS 4188-63.

3. SAIGON 768 was Ambassador Lodge personal report to President in response to DEPTEL 576 which is possible explanation why I had not seen 768 until one week after dispatch and only when I requested a copy so that I might intelligently respond to your JCS 4188-63 which referred to 768.

4. Upon receipt of DEPTEL 576 Ambassador Lodge requested that I provide him brief suggested inputs for responses to questions 1 and 2 (a) 1 of DEPTEL 576 in that they were principally military in nature. I have done this on weekly basis but have had no knowledge as to whether my suggested brief inputs were utilized in his personal report since as indicated abot [sic] these were not opened to me.

5. My suggested brief inputs for para 1 which were provided the Ambassador for use as he saw fit in drafting his personal evaluations for the past three weeks follow:

16 OCT: On balance we are gaining in contest with the VC. There will continue to be minor ups and downs but the general trend has been and continues upward.

23 OCT: While significant changes are, and will be, difficult to identify on a day to day or even weekly comparative basis as regards the contest with the Viet Cong, the general trend continues to be favorable. The tempo of RVN-initiated operations is increasing and recently the tempo of VC-initiated activity has fallen off.

30 OCT: No change from that previously reported. National day affair this past week tended to bring about a slight reduction in the tempo of RVN initiated actions, however VC actions also waned and on balance the trend continues to be favorable.

6. My suggested brief inputs for paragraph 2 (a) which were provided the Ambassador for use as he saw fit in drafting his personal evaluations for the past three weeks follow:

16 OCT: The government has responded at many points when we have cited need for improvement in the campaign against the VC (shift of boundaries; placement of VNSF activities in corps areas under OPCON of corps comdr; reallocation of forces). Additionally Gen Don and Gen Stilwell, my G-3 have spent the last week in the conduct of a Corps by Corps assessment of the present situation with a view to further desirable reallocation of forces. Based on their recommendations I will make further recommendations to Pres. Diem. (for inclusion in ANS to para 2 (a) Ambassador was advised that US/GVN military relations remain good).

23 OCT: Response received from the government in reaction to military areas where we have cited needed improvement has been favorable in some areas, while in other areas no indication of response has been received to date. In no case have they flatly resisted recommended improvements. Favorable indications are the commitment of nearly half of the general reserve to operations, plans for possible further redistribution of forces, and a recognition of the requirement to effect consolidation in the strategic hamlet program.

30 OCT: No specific responses have been received from the government this past week in reaction to military areas where we have cited need for improvement. This is believed due in great part to their preoccupation with National day affairs.

7. Comparison of my 23 October suggested brief inputs quoted above with SAIGON 678 indicates Ambassador Lodge did not see fit to utilize my suggestions to any significant degree. It also apparent that upon further reflection Ambassador determined that more retailed response was required than he initially felt necessary when he requested brief inputs on principally military items.

8. I believe certain portions SAIGON 768 require specific comment. These follow:

Para F of answer to question 1 -- View of Vice Pres Tho that there are only 15 to 20 all-around hamlets in the area south of Saigon which are really good is ridiculous and indicates need for him to get out of Saigon and visit countryside so as to really know of progress which is being made. In past two weeks I have visited nine Delta provinces (Tay Ninh, Binh Duong, Hau Nghia, Long An, Kien Phong, Kien Hoa, An Giang, Phong Dinh, Chuong Thien) eight of which are south of Saigon, and I do not find the province chiefs or sector advisors to hold the same views as Vice Pres Tho.

Para H of answer to question 1 -- I am unable to concur in statement that quote one cannot drive as much around the country as one could two years ago end of quote. I believe it will be some time before, if we ever do, experience mass surrenders of the VC. I am unable to concur in statement that VC is quote in fact, reckoned at a higher figure than it was two years ago end quote. I have not observed the signs that hatred of the government has tended to diminish the Army's vigor, enthusiasm and enterprise. I find it difficult to believe the few rumors one hears regarding Generals being paid off with money and flashy cars. Most cars I see in use by Generals are same they have been using for past two years and few if any qualify as flashy to my mind. I do not concur with the evaluation of the 14 October report of the Delta Subcommittee of the Committee on Province Rehabilitation which states that the VC are gaining. Moreover take exception to the implication that the report represents official country team agency views and is consequently authoritative in the views it presents. Agency representatives on this sub-committee served as individuals in reporting to the COPROR Committee, incidentally there were wide divergencies even among sub-committee members. COPROR Committee received but did not place its stamp of approval or concurrence on report of its Sub-Committee. COPROR Committee returned the report to its Sub-Committee for rework. Consequently this report has not as yet been submitted to country team nor has it been referred to individual country team agencies for review and/or comment. Any views quoted from this Sub-Committee report therefore have no rpt no validity as expressions of country team or individual agency views.

Para J of answer to question 1 -- With regard to the quote existing political control over troop movement, which prevents optimum use of the Army end quote. 1 do not deny that political influences enter into this picture however 1 feel we have made and are making significant strides in this area and do not concur that time is not working for us -- so long as political controls remain as at present.

Para J of answer to question 1 -- As indicated in paras 5 and 6 above and in other reports 1 have filed my evaluation is that from the military point of view the trend is definitely in RVN favor consequently 1 cannot concur that quote we at present are not doing much more than holding our own end quote.

Answer under (a) to question 2 -- I am correctly quoted here but para 6 gives full context of my suggested input.

Answer under (c) to question 2 -- As indicated para 6 above Ambassador was advised that US/GVN military relations remain good.

#56: Bundy Cable to Lodge Voicing White House Concern

Cablegram from McGeorge Bundy to Ambassador Lodge, Oct. 30, 1963.

1. Your 2023, 2040, 2041 and 2043 examined with care at highest levels here. You should promptly discuss this reply and associated messages with Harkins whose responsibilities toward any coup are very heavy especially after you leave (see para. 7 below). They give much clearer picture group's alleged plans and also indicate chances of action with or without our approval now so significant that we should urgently consider our attitude and contingency plans. We note particularly Don's curiosity your departure and his insistence Conein be available from Wednesday night on, which suggests date might be as early as Thursday.

2. Believe our attitude to coup group can still have decisive effect on its decisions. We believe that what we say to coup group can produce delay of coup and that betrayal of coup plans to Diem is not repeat not our only way of stopping coup. We therefore need urgently our combined assessment with Harkins and CAS (including their separate comments if they desire). We concerned that our line-up of forces in Saigon (being cabled in next message) indicates approximately equal balance of forces, with substantial possibility serious and prolonged fighting or even defeat. Either of these could be serious or even disastrous for U.S. interests, so that we must have assurance balance of forces clearly favorable.

3. With your assessment in hand, we might feel that we should convey message to Don, whether or not he gives 4 or 48 hours notice that would (A) continue explicit hands-off policy, (B) positively encourage coup, or (C) discourage.

4. In any case, believe Cone in should find earliest opportunity express to Don that we do not find presently revealed plans give clear prospect of quick results. This conversation should call attention important Saigon units still apparently loyal to Diem and raise serious issue as to what means coup group has to deal with them.

5. From operational standpoint, we also deeply concerned Don only spokesman for group and possibility cannot be discounted he may not be in good faith. We badly need some corroborative evidence whether Minh, and others directly and completely involved. In view Don's claim he doesn't handle "military planning" could not Conein tell Don that we need better military picture and that Big Minh could communicate this most naturally and easily to Stillwell? We recognize desirability involving MACV to minimum, but believe Stillwell far more desirable this purpose than using Conein both ways.

6. Complexity above actions raises question whether you should adhere to present Thursday schedule. Concur you and other U.S. elements should take no action that could indicate U.S. awareness coup possibility. However, DOD is sending berth-equipped military aircraft that will arrive Saigon Thursday and could take you out thereafter as late as Saturday afternoon in time to meet your presently proposed arrival Washington Sunday. You could explain this being done as convenience and that your Washington arrival is same. A further advantage such aircraft is that it would permit your prompt return from any point en route if necessary. To reduce time in transit, you should use this plane, but we recognize delaying your departure may involve greater risk that you personally would appear involved if any action took place. However, advantages your having extra two days in Saigon may outweigh this and we leave timing of flight to your judgment.

7. Whether you leave Thursday or later, believe it essential that prior your departure there be fullest consultation Harkins and CAS and that there be clear arrangements for handling (A) normal activity, (B) continued coup contacts, (C) action in event a coup starts. We assume you will wish. Truehart as charge to be head of country team in normal situation, but highest authority desires it clearly understood that after your departure Harkins should participate in supervision of all coup contacts and that in event a coup begins, he become head of country team and direct representative of President, with Truehart in effect acting as POLAD. On coup contacts we will maintain continuous guidance and will expect equally continuous reporting with prompt account of any important divergences in assessments of Harkins and Smith.

8. If coup should start, question of protecting U.S. nationals at once arises. We can move Marine Battalion into Saigon by air from Okinawa within 24 hours if -- [sic] available. We are sending instructions to CINCPAC to arrange orderly movement of seaborne Marine Battalion to waters adjacent to South Vietnam in position to close Saigon within approximately 24 hours.

9. We are now examining post-coup contingencies here and request your immediate recommendations on position to be adopted after coup begins, especially with respect to requests for assistance of different sorts from one side or the other also request you forward contingency recommendations for action if coup (A) succeeds, (B) fails, (C) is indecisive.

10. We reiterate burden of proof must be on coup group to show a substantial possibility of quick success; otherwise, we should discourage them from proceeding since a miscalculation could result in jeopardizing U.S. position in Southeast Asia.

#57: Lodge Response to Bundy on Letting Coup Plan Proceed

Cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to McGeorge Bundy, Oct. 30, 1963. The Pentagon study identifies this message as a reply to Mr. Bundy's cablegram.

1. We must, of course, get best possible estimate of chance of coup's success and this estimate must color our thinking, but do not think we have the power to delay or discourage a coup. Don has made it clear many times that this is a Vietnamese affair. It is theoretically possible for us to turn over the information which has been given to us in confidence to Diem and this would undoubtedly stop the coup and would make traitors out of us. For practical purposes therefore I would say that we have very little influence on what is essentially a Vietnamese affair. In addition, this would place the heads of the Generals, their civilian supporters, and lower military officers on the spot, thereby sacrificing a significant portion of the civilian and military leadership needed to carry the war against the VC to its successful conclusion. After our efforts not to discourage a coup and this change of heart, we would foreclose any possibility of change of the GVN for the better. Diem/Nhu have displayed no intentions to date of a desire to change the traditional methods of control through police action or take any repeat any actions which would undermine the power position or solidarity of the Ngo family. This, despite our heavy pressures directed DEPTEL 534. If our attempt to thwart this coup were successful, which we doubt, it is our firm estimate that younger officers, small groups of military, would then engage in an abortive action creating chaos ideally suited to VC objectives.

2. While we will attempt a combined assessment in a following message, time has not yet permitted substantive examination of this matter with General Harkins. My general view is that the U.S. is trying to bring this medieval country into the 20th Century and that we have made considerable progress in military and economic ways but to gain victory we must also bring them into the 20th Century politically and that can only be done by either a thoroughgoing change in the behavior of the present government or by another government. The Viet Cong problem is partly military but it is also partly psychological and political.

3. With respect to paragraph 3 Ref., I believe that we should continue our present position of keeping hands off but continue to monitor and press for more detailed information. CAS has been analyzing potential coup forces for some time and it is their estimate that the Generals have probably figured their chances pretty closely and probably also expect that once they begin to move, not only planned units, but other units will join them. We believe that Vietnam's best Generals are involved in directing this effort. If they can't pull it off, it is doubtful other military leadership could do so successfully. It is understandable that the Generals would be reticent to reveal full details of their plan for fear of leaks to the GVN.

4. Re para. 4, Ref., we expect that Conein will meet Don on the night of 30 Oct or early morning 31 Oct. We agree with Para. 4, Ref., that we should continue to press for details and question Don as to his estimate of the relative strengths of opposing forces. We do not believe, however, that we should show any signs of attempting to direct this affair ourselves or of giving the impression of second thoughts on this Vietnamese initiation. In the meantime, we will respond specifically to CAS Washington 79126. Please note that CAS Saigon 2059 corrects CAS Saigon 2023 and two regiments of the 7th Division are included in the coup forces.

5. Apparently Para. 5, Ref., overlooks CAS 1445, 5 Oct 1963 which gave an account of the face to face meeting of General "Big Minh" and Conein at Minh's instigation and through the specific arrangement of Gen Don. Minh specifically identified Gen Don as participating in a plan to change the government. Please note that Minh's remarks parallel in every way the later statements of Gen. Don. We believe that the limitation of contact to Don and Cein [sic] is an appropriate security measure consonant with our urging that the smallest number of persons be aware of these details.

6. We do not believe it wise to ask that "Big Minh" pass his plans to Gen. Stilwell. The Vietnamese believe that there are members of the U.S. military who leak to the Government of Vietnam. I do not doubt that this is an unjust suspicion but it is a fact that this suspicion exists and there is no use in pretending that it does not.

7. I much appreciate your furnishing the berth-equipped military aircraft which I trust is a jet. I intend to tell Pan American that a jet has been diverted for my use and therefore I will no longer need their services. This will undoubtedly leak to the newspapers and the GVN may study this move with some suspicion. I will answer any inquiries on this score to the effect that I am most pleased by this attention and that this is obviously done as a measure to insure my comfort and save my time. To allay suspicions further, I will offer space on the aircraft to MACV for emergency leave cases, etc., and handle this in as routine fashion as possible. I wish to reserve comment as to my actual time of departure until I have some additional information, hopefully tomorrow.

8. Your para. 7 somewhat perplexes me. It does not seem sensible to have the military in charge of a matter which is so profoundly political as a change of government. In fact, I would say to do this would probably be the end of any hope for a change of government here. This is said impersonally as a general proposition, since Gen. Harkins is a splendid General and an old friend of mine to whom I would gladly entrust anything I have. I assume that the Embassy and MACV are able to handle normal activities under A, that CAS can continue coup contacts under B, and as regards C, we must simply do the very best we can in the light of events after the coup has started.

9. We appreciate the steps taken as outlined in para. 8. However, we should remember that the GVN is not totally inept in its foreign soundings and that these moves should be as discreet and security conscious as possible. I would, of course, call for these forces only in case of extreme necessity since my hope coincides with the Generals that this will be an all-Vietnamese affair.

10. We anticipate that at the outset of the coup, unless it moves with lightning swiftness, the GVN will request me or Gen. Harkins to use our influence to call it off. I believe our responsibilities should be that our influence certainly could not be superior to that of the President who is Commander-in-Chief and that if he is unable to call it off, we would certainly be unable to do so and would merely be risking American lives attempting to interfere in this Vietnamese problem. The Government might request aircraft. Helicopters, for the evacuation of key personalities that would have to be studied closely, but we would certainly not commit our planes and pilots between the battle lines of the opposing forces. We should, rather, state that we would be willing to act in this fashion during a truce in which both sides agree to the removal of key personalities. I believe that there would be immediate political problems in attempting to take these personalities to another neighboring country and probably we would be best served in depositing them in Saipan where the absence of press, communications, etc., would allow us some leeway to make a further decision as to their ultimate disposition. If senior Vietnamese personalities and their families requested asylum in the Embassy or other American installations, we would probably have to grant it in light of our previous action with respect to Tri Quang. This will undoubtedly present later problems but hopefully the new government might feel disposed to help us solve this problem. Naturally, asylum would be granted on the same basis as the Buddhists, i.e., physical presence at the Embassy or other location.

11. As to requests from the Generals, they may well have need of funds at the last moment with which to buy off potential opposition. To the extent that these funds can be passed discreetly, I believe we should furnish them, provided we are convinced that the proposed coup is sufficiently well organized to have a good chance of success. If they are successful, they will undoubtedly ask for prompt recognition and some assurance that military and economic aid will continue at normal level. We should be prepared to make these statements if the issue is clear-cut predicating our position on the President's stated desire to continue the war against the VC to final victory. VOA might be an important means of disseminating this message. Should the coup fail, we will have to pick up the pieces as best we can at that time. We have a commitment to the Generals from the August episode to attempt to help in the evacuation of their dependents. We should try to live up to this if conditions will permit. American complicity will undoubtedly be charged and there might be some acts taken against specific personalities which we should anticipate and make provision against as best we can. Should the coup prove indecisive and a protracted struggle is in progress, we should probably offer our good offices to help resolve the issue in the interest of the war against the VC. This might hold some benefit in terms of concessions by GVN. We will naturally incur some opprobrium from both sides in our role as mediator. However, this opprobrium would probably be less distasteful than a deadlock which would open the door to the VC. We consider such a deadlock as the least likely possibility of the three.

12. As regards your para. 10, I do not know what more proof can be offered than the fact these men are obviously prepared to risk their lives and that they want nothing for themselves. If I am any judge of human nature, Don's face expressed of sincerity and determination on the morning that I spoke to him. Heartily agree that a miscalculation could jeopardize position in Southeast Asia. We also run tremendous risks by doing nothing.

If we were convinced that the coup was going to fail, we would, of course, do everything we could to stop it.

13. Gen. Harkins has read this and does not concur.

#58: Further Bundy Instructions to Lodge on Contingency Plans

Cablegram from McGeorge Bundy to Ambassador Lodge, Oct. 30, 1963.

1. Our reading your thoughtful 2063 leads us to believe a significant difference of shading may exist on one crucial point (see next para.) and on one or two lesser matters easily clarified.

2. We do not accept as a basis for U.S. policy that we have no power to delay or discourage a coup. In your paragraph 12 you say that if you were convinced that the coup was going to fail you would of course do everything you could to stop it. We believe that on this same basis you should take action to persuade coup leaders to stop or delay any operation which, in your best judgment, does not clearly give high prospect of success. We have not considered any betrayal of generals to Diem, and our 79109 explicitly reject that course. We recognize the danger of appearing hostile to generals, but we believe that our own position should be on as firm ground as possible, hence we cannot limit ourselves to proposition implied in your message that only conviction of certain failure justifies intervention. We believe that your standard for intervention should be that stated above.

3. Therefore, if you should conclude that there is not clearly a high prospect of success, you should communicate this doubt to generals in a way calculated to persuade them to desist at least until chances are better. In such a communication you should use the weight of U.S. best advice and explicitly reject any implication that we oppose the effort of the generals because of preference for present regime. We recognize need to bear in mind generals' interpretation of U.S. role in 1960 coup attempt, and your agent should maintain clear distinction between strong and honest advice given as a friend and any opposition to their objectives.

We continue to be deeply interested in up-to-the-minute assessment of prospects and are sending this before reply to our CAS 79126. We want continuous exchange latest assessments on this topic.

5. To clarify our intent, paragraph 7 of our 79109 is rescinded and we restate our desires as follows:

a. While you are in Saigon you will be Chief of Country Team in all circumstances and our only instruction is that we are sure it will help to have Harkins fully informed at all stages and to use advice from both him and Smith in framing guidance for coup contacts and assessment. We continue to be concerned that neither Conein nor any other reporting source is getting the clarity we would like with respect to alignment of forces and level of determination among generals.

b. When you leave Saigon and before there is a coup, Truehart will be Chief of the Country Team. Our only modification of existing procedures is that in this circumstance we wish all instruction to Conein to be conducted in immediate consultation with Harkins and Smith so that all three know what is sold in Conein. Any disagreement among the three on such instruction should be reported to Washington and held for our resolution, when time permits.

c. If you have left and a coup occurs, we believe that emergency situation requires, pending your return, that direction of country team be vested in most senior officer with experience of military decisions, and the officer in our view is Harkins. We do not intend that this switch in final responsibility should be publicized in any way, and Harkins will of course be guided in basic posture by our instructions, which follow in paragraph 6. We do not believe that this switch will have the effect suggested in your paragraph 8.

6. This paragraph contains our present standing instructions for U.S. posture in the event of a coup.

a. U.S. authorities will reject appeals for direct intervention from either side, and U.S.-controlled aircraft and other resources will not be committed between the battle lines or in support of either side, without authorization from Washington.

b. In event of indecisive contest, U.S. authorities may in their discretion agree to perform any acts agreeable to both sides, such as removal of key personalities or relay of information. In such actions, however, U.S. authorities will strenuously avoid appearance of pressure on either side. It is not in the interest of USG to be or appear to be either instrument of existing government or instrument of coup.

c. In the event of imminent or actual failure of coup, U.S. authorities may afford asylum in their discretion to those to whom there is any express or implied obligation of this sort. We believe however that in such a case it would be in our interest and probably in interest of those seeking asylum that they seek protection of other Embassies in addition to our own. This point should be made strongly if need arises.

d. But once a coup under responsible leadership has begun, and within these restrictions, it is in the interest of the U.S. Government that it should succeed.

7. We have your message about return to Washington and we suggest that all public comment be kept as low-key and quiet as possible, and we also urge that if possible you keep open the exact time of your departure. We are strongly sensitive to great disadvantage of having you out of Saigon if this should turn out to be a week of decision, and if it can be avoided we would prefer not to see you pinned to a fixed hour of departure now.

#59: Lodge's Last Talk with Diem

Excerpt from cablegram from Ambassador Lodge to State Department, Nov. 1, 1963, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. According to the narrative, the message says that at 4:30 P.M. on Nov. 1 President Diem telephoned Ambassador Lodge and the following conversation ensued:

DIEM: Some units have made a rebellion and I want to know what is the attitude of the U.S.?

LODGE: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to tell you. I have heard the shooting, but am not acquainted with all the facts. Also it is 4:30 a.m. in Washington and the U.S. Government cannot possibly have a view.

DIEM: But you must have some general ideas. After all, I am a Chief of State. I have tried to do my duty. I want to do now what duty and good sense require. I believe in duty above all.

LODGE: You have certainly done your duty. As I told you only this morning, I admire your courage and your great contributions to your country. No one can take away from you the credit for all you have done. Now I am worried about your physical safety. I have a report that those in charge of the current activity offer you and your brother safe conduct out of the country if you resign. Had you heard this?

DIEM: No. (And then after a pause) You have my telephone number.

LODGE: Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, please call me.

DIEM: I am trying to re-establish order.

#60: Order by Johnson Reaffirming Kennedy's Policy on Vietnam

Excerpts from National Security Action Memorandum 273, Nov. 26, 1963, four days after the assassination of President Kennedy, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase.

"A National Security Action Memorandum was drafted to give guidance and direction to our efforts to improve the conduct of the war under the new South Vietnamese leadership. It described the purpose of the American involvement in Vietnam as, "to assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy." It defined contribution to that purpose as the test of all U.S. actions in Vietnam. It reiterated the objectives of withdrawing 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963 and ending the insurgency in I, II, and III Corps by the end of 1964, and in the Delta by the end of 1965. U.S. support for the new regime was confirmed and all U.S. efforts were directed to assist it to consolidate itself and expand its popular support ....

The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963....

The President expects that all senior officers of the government will move energetically to insure the full unity of support for established U.S. policy in South Vietnam. Both in Washington and in the field, it is essential that the government be unified. It is of particular importance that express or implied criticism of officers of other branches be assiduously avoided in all contacts with the Vietnamese government and with the press ....

We should concentrate our efforts, and insofar as possible we should persuade the government of South Vietnam to concentrate its effort, on the critical situation in the Mekong Delta. This concentration should include not only military but political, economic, turn the tide not only of battle but of belief, and we should seek to turn not only of battle but of belief, and we should seek to increase not only the controlled hamlets but the productivity of this area, especially where the proceeds can be held for the advantage of anti-Communist forces ...

It is a major interest of the United States government that the present provisional government of South Vietnam should be assisted in consolidating itself in holding and developing increased public support.

. . . And in conclusion, plans were requested for clandestine operations by the GVN against the North and also for operations up to 50 kilometers into Laos; and, as a justification for such measures, State was directed to develop a strong, documented case "to demonstrate to the world the degree to which the Viet Cong is controlled, sustained and supplied from Hanoi, through Laos and other channels." ...

President Kennedy, who inherited a policy of "limited-risk gamble," bequeathed to Johnson a broad commitment to war. (Cornell Capa from Magnum)

Attacks on Vietcong positions were carried out by T-28 fighters piloted by South Vietnamese and American fliers. (Pictorial Parade)

In a major policy decision, Kennedy sent the carrier Core, to Saigon late in 1961, with helicopters and U.S. advisers. (Francois Sully from Black Star).

United States advisers in Laos in 1961 and 1962. Their task was to help in the fight against Pathet Lao guerrillas. (PIX)

Nicholas Tikhimiroff from Magnum

Gen. Maxwell Taylor, left, and Walt Rostow with Gen. Duong Van Minh after playing tennis in Saigon in October of 1961. Minh took part in Diem coup two years later. Taylor's report on this Saigon trip would greatly influence Kennedy's policy. (Wide World).

Buddhist opposition to Diem was dramatically expressed in the suicide by fire of Thich Quang Duc in Saigon in June of 1963. (Wide World).

Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador, and Diem, Aug., 1963 (Wide World).

President Diem, shot in coup, November, 1963 ("Paris Match")


In the aftermath of the Diem coup, Gen. Duong Van Minh announces the formation of ruling junta. At rear, second from right, is Nguyen Van Thieu, later to become President. Gen. Tran Van Don, below, a leader in plot, is cheered by crowd (Keystone Press).

Outside the bullet-scarred Presidential Palace in Saigon, soldiers who overthrew Diem display flag in the rubble (Wide World).

Ngo Dinh Nu, Diem's brother also died in 1963 coup. (Black Star)

Ambassador Lodge, Gen. Paul Harkins and John McCone, who was the Director of Central Intelligence. Lodge and Harkins had often disagreed on the ways to deal with President Diem (Black Star).
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Chapter 5: The Covert War and Tonkin Gulf: February-August, 1964

Highlights of the Period: February-August, 1964


Operation Plan 34A, a program of clandestine military operations against North Vietnam, was started.

MARCH 1964

Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, urged on his return from Vietnam that plans be made for "new and significant pressures on North Vietnam" since the new government of Gen. Nguyen Khanh was considered unable to improve the outlook in South Vietnam.

President Johnson approved, and cabled Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. Ambassador in Saigon, that "our planning for action against the North is on a contingency basis at the present."

APRIL 1964

Scenarios for escalation were reviewed in Saigon by Lodge, William P. Bundy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Gen. Earle G. Wheeler. The plans covered details of stepping up U.S. military involvement to conform with the Administration's conviction that Hanoi controlled the Vietcong. The extent of Hanoi's involvement should be "proven to the satisfaction of our own public, of our allies, and of the neutralists," according to Mr. Rusk.

MAY 1964

General Khanh asked the U.S. to mount attacks on the North, and told Mr. Lodge that Saigon wanted to declare war on North Vietnam. Mr. McNamara did not "rule out" the possibility of bombing attacks, but stressed that "such actions must be supplementary to and not a substitute for" success against the Vietcong in the South. Mr. Lodge cabled Mr. Rusk that the U.S. could not "expect a much better performance" from the Saigon government "unless something" in the way of U.S. action was forthcoming.

William Bundy sent the President a 30-day scenario for graduated military pressure against the North that would culminate in full-scale bombing attacks. This included a joint Congressional resolution "authorizing whatever is necessary with respect to Vietnam."

JUNE 1964

At the Honolulu strategy meeting, Ambassador Lodge urged "a selective bombing campaign against military targets in the North" to bolster shaky morale in the South. He questioned the need for the Congressional resolution; Mr. Rusk, Mr. McNamara and John McCone of the C.I.A. supported it.

Preparatory military deployments in Southeast Asia got underway.

J. Blair Seaborn, a Canadian diplomat, met secretly in Hanoi with Pham Van Dong, North Vietnam's Premier, and warned him of the "greatest devastation" to the North that would result from escalation by Hanoi.

The President resisted pressure to ask for the Congressional resolution immediately and to step up the war effort.

Mr. Johnson queried the C.I.A. about the "domino theory." The agency replied that only Cambodia was likely "quickly succumb to Communism" if Laos and South Vietnam fell, but said that U.S. prestige would be damaged.

JULY 1964

General Khanh announced a "March North" propaganda campaign.

South Vietnamese naval commandos raided two North Vietnamese islands in the Gulf of Tonkin. This was part of the "growing operational capabilities" of the 34A program, the Pentagon study says.


The destroyer Maddox, on intelligence patrol duty in the Gulf of Tonkin, was attacked by two North Vietnamese PT boats seeking the South Vietnamese raiders. Joined by the C. Turner Joy, the U.S. vessels were attacked again by torpedo boats, the history reports.

Less than 12 hours after the news of the second attack reached Washington, bombers were on the way to North Vietnam on reprisal raids from carriers.

The Tonkin Gulf resolution, drafted by the Administration, was introduced in Congress. Administration officials testified; Mr. Mc- Namara disclaimed knowledge of the South Vietnamese attacks on the islands. The resolution passed.

What the study calls "an important threshhold in the war" -- U.S. reprisal air strikes against the North-had been crossed with "virtually no domestic criticism."

Chapter 5: The Covert War and Tonkin Gulf: February-August, 1964

by Neil Sheehan

This article, the first in the series as published by The Times, appears here in chronological order, with the initial paragraphs revised.

The Pentagon papers disclose that for six months before the Tonkin Gulf incident in August, 1964, the United States had been mounting clandestine military attacks against North Vietnam while planning to obtain a Congressional resolution that the Administration regarded as the equivalent of a declaration of war.

When the incident occurred, the Johnson Administration did not reveal these clandestine attacks and pushed the previously prepared resolution through both houses of Congress on Aug. 7.

Within 72 hours, the Administration, again drawing on a prepared plan, secretly sent a Canadian emissary to Hanoi. He warned Premier Pham Van Dong that the resolution meant North Vietnam must halt the Communist-led insurgencies in South Vietnam and Laos or "suffer the consequences."

The magnitude of this threat to Hanoi, the nature and extent of the covert military operations and the intent of the Administration to use the resolution to commit the nation to open warfare, if this later proved desirable, were all kept secret.

The section of the Pentagon history dealing with the internal debate, planning and action in the Johnson Administration from the beginning of 1964 to the August clashes between North Vietnamese PT boats and American destroyers -- portrayed as a critical period when the groundwork was laid for the wider war that followed -- also makes the following disclosures:

• The clandestine military operations had become so extensive by August, 1964, that Thai pilots flying American T-28 fighter planes apparently bombed and strafed North Vietnamese villages near the Laotian border on Aug. 1 and 2.
• Although a firm decision to begin sustained bombing of North Vietnam was not made until months later, the Administration was able to order retaliatory air strikes on less than six hours' notice during the Tonkin incident because planning had progressed so far that a list of targets was available for immediate choice.
• The target list had been drawn up in May, along with a draft of the Congressional resolution, also as part of a proposed "scenario" culminating in air raids on North Vietnam.
• During a whirlwind series of Pentagon meetings at which the targets for the Tonkin reprisals were selected, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff also arranged for the deployment to Southeast Asia of air strike forces earmarked for the opening phases of the bombing campaign. Within hours of the retaliatory air strikes on Aug. 4, and three days before the passage of the Tonkin resolution, the squadrons began their planned moves.

What the Pentagon papers call "an elaborate program of covert military operations against the state of North Vietnam" began on Feb. 1, 1964, under the code name Operation Plan 34A. President Johnson ordered the program, on the recommendation of Secretary McNamara, in the hope, held very faint by the intelligence community, that "progressively escalating pressure" from the clandestine attacks might eventually force Hanoi to order the Vietcong guerrillas in Vietnam and the Pathet Lao in Laos to halt their insurrections.

In a memorandum to the President on Dec. 21, 1963, after a two-day trip to Vietnam, Mr. McNamara remarked that the plans, drawn up by the Central Intelligence Agency station and the military command in Saigon, were "an excellent job."

"They present a wide variety of sabotage and psychological operations against North Vietnam from which I believe we should aim to select those that provide maximum pressure with minimum risk," Mr. McNamara wrote. [See Document 61.]

President Johnson, in this period, showed a preference for steps that would remain "noncommitting" to combat, the study found. But weakness in South Vietnam and Communist advances kept driving the planning process. This, in turn, caused the Saigon Government and American officials in Saigon to demand ever more action.

Through 1964, the 34A operations ranged from flights over North Vietnam by U-2 spy planes and kidnappings of North Vietnamese citizens for intelligence information, to parachuting sabotage and psychological-warfare teams into the North, commando raids from the sea to blow up rail and highway bridges and the bombardment of North Vietnamese coastal installations by PT boats.

These "destructive undertakings," as they were described in a report to the President on Jan. 2, 1964, from Maj. Gen. Victor H. Krulak of the Marine Corps, were designed "to result in substantial destruction, economic loss and harassment." The tempo and magnitude of the strikes were designed to rise in three phases through 1964 to "targets identified with North Vietnam's economic and industrial well-being."

The clandestine operations were directed for the President by Mr. McNamara through a section of the Joint Chiefs organization called the Office of the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities. The study says that Mr. McNamara was kept regularly informed of planned and conducted raids by memorandums from General Krulak, who first held the position of special assistant, and then from Maj. Gen. Rollen H. Anthis of the Air Force, who succeeded him in February, 1964. The Joint Chiefs themselves periodically evaluated the operations for Mr. McNamara.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk was also informed, if in less detail.

The attacks were given "interagency clearance" in Washington, the study says, by coordinating them with the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, including advance monthly schedules of the raids from General Anthis.

The Pentagon account and the documents show that William P. Bundy, the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, and John T. McNaughton, head of the Pentagon's politico-military operations as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, were the senior civilian officials who supervised the distribution of the schedules and the other aspects of interagency coordination for Mr. McNamara and Mr. Rusk.

The analyst notes that the 34A program differed in a significant respect from the relatively low-level and unsuccessful intelligence and sabotage operations that the C.I.A. had earlier been carrying out in North Vietnam.

The 34A attacks were a military effort under the control in Saigon of Gen. Paul D. Harkins, chief of the United States Military Assistance Command there. He ran them through a special branch of his command called the Studies and Observations Group. It drew up the advance monthly schedules for approval in Washington. Planning was done jointly with the South Vietnamese and it was they or "hired personnel," apparently Asian mercenaries, who performed the raids, but General Harkins was in charge.

The second major segment of the Administration's covert war against North Vietnam consisted of air operations in Laos. A force of propeller-driven T-28 fighter-bombers, varying from about 25 to 40 aircraft, had been organized there. The planes bore Laotian Air Force markings, but only some belonged to that air force. The rest were manned by pilots of Air America (a pseudo-private airline run by the C.I.A.) and by Thai pilots under the control of Ambassador Leonard Unger. [See Document #73.]

Reconnaissance flights by regular United States Air Force and Navy jets, code-named Yankee Team, gathered photographic intelligence for bombing raids by the T-28's against North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao troops in Laos.

The Johnson Administration gradually stepped up these air operations in Laos through the spring and summer of 1964 in what became a kind of preview of the bombing of the North. The escalation occurred both because of ground advances by the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao and because of the Administration's desire to bring more military pressure against North Vietnam.

As the intensity of the T-28 strikes rose, they crept closer to the North Vietnamese border. The United States Yankee Team jets moved from high-altitude reconnaissance at the beginning of the year to low-altitude reconnaissance in May. In June, armed escort jets were added to the reconnaissance missions. The escort jets began to bomb and strafe North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao troops and installations whenever the reconnaissance planes were fired upon.

The destroyer patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin, code-named De Soto patrols, were the third element in the covert military pressures against North Vietnam. While the purpose of the patrols was mainly psychological, as a show of force, the destroyers collected the kind of intelligence on North Vietnamese warning radars and coastal defenses that would be useful to 34A raiding parties or, in the event of a bombing campaign, to pilots. The first patrol was conducted by the destroyer Craig without incident in February and March, in the early days of the 34A operations.

The analyst states that before the August Tonkin incident there was no attempt to involve the destroyers with the 34A attacks or to use the ships as bait for North Vietnamese retaliation. The patrols were run through a separate naval chain of command.

Although the highest levels of the Administration sent the destroyers into the gulf while the 34A raids were taking place, the Pentagon study, as part of its argument that a deliberate provocation was not intended, in effect says that the Administration did not believe that the North Vietnamese would dare to attack the ships.

But the study makes it clear that the physical presence of the destroyers provided the elements for the Tonkin clash. And immediately after the reprisal air strikes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton put forward a "provocation strategy" proposing to repeat the clash as a pretext for bombing the North.

Of the three elements of the covert war, the analyst cites the 34A raids as the most important. The "unequivocal" American responsibility for them "carried with it an implicit symbolic and psychological intensification of the U.S. commitment," he writes. "A firebreak had been crossed."

The fact that the intelligence community and even the Joint Chiefs gave the program little chance of compelling Hanoi to stop the Vietcong and the Pathet Lao, he asserts, meant that "a demand for more was stimulated and an expectation of more was aroused."

On Jan. 22, 1964, a week before the 34A raids started, the Joint Chiefs warned Mr. McNamara in a memorandum signed by the Chairman, Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, that while "we are wholly in favor of executing the covert actions against North Vietnam ... it would be idle to conclude that these efforts will have a decisive effect" on Hanoi's will to support the Vietcong. [See Document #62.]

The Joint Chiefs said the Administration "must make ready to conduct increasingly bolder actions," including "aerial bombing of key North Vietnam targets, using United States resources under Vietnamese cover," sending American ground troops to South Vietnam and employing "United States forces as necessary in direct actions against North Vietnam."

And after a White House strategy meeting on Feb. 20, President Johnson ordered that "contingency planning for pressures against North Vietnam should be speeded up."

"Particular attention should be given to shaping such pressures so as to produce the maximum credible deterrent effect on Hanoi," the order said.

The impelling force behind the Administration's desire to step up the action during this period was its recognition of the steady deterioration in the positions of the pro-American governments in Laos and South Vietnam, and the corresponding weakening of the United States hold on both countries. North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao advances in Laos were seen as having a direct impact on the morale of the anti- Communist forces in South Vietnam, the primary American concern.

This deterioration was also concealed from Congress and the public as much as possible to provide the Administration with maximum flexibility to determine its moves as it chose from behind the scenes.

The United States found itself particularly unable to cope with the Vietcong insurgency, first through the Saigon military regime of Gen. Duong Van Minh and later through that of Gen. Nguyen Khanh, who seized power in a coup d'etat on Jan. 30, 1964. Accordingly, attention focused more and more on North Vietnam as "the root of the problem," in the words of the Joint Chiefs.

Walt W. Rostow, the dominant intellectual of the Administration, had given currency to this idea and provided the theoretical framework for escalation. His concept, first enunciated in a speech at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1961, was that a revolution could be dried up by cutting off external sources of support and supply.

Where North Vietnam was concerned, Mr. Rostow had evolved another theory -- that a credible threat to bomb the industry Hanoi had so painstakingly constructed out of the ruins of the French Indochina War would be enough to frighten the country's leaders into ordering the Vietcong to halt their activities in the South.

In a memorandum on Feb. 13, 1964, Mr. Rostow told Secretary of State Rusk that President Ho Chi Minh "has an industrial complex to protect: he is no longer a guerrilla fighter with nothing to lose."

The Administration was firmly convinced from interceptions of radio traffic between North Vietnam and the guerrillas in the South that Hanoi controlled and directed the Vietcong. Intelligence analyses of the time stated, however, that "the primary sources of Communist strength in South Vietnam are indigenous," arising out of the revolutionary social aims of the Communists and their identification with the nationalist cause during the independence struggle against France in the nineteen-fifties.

The study shows that President Johnson and most of his key advisers would not accept this intelligence analysis that bombing the North would have no lasting effect on the situation in the South, although there was division -- even among those who favored a bombing campaign if necessary -- over the extent to which Vietcong fortunes were dependent on the infiltration of men and arms from North Vietnam.

William Bundy and Mr. Rusk mentioned on several occasions the need to obtain more evidence of this infiltration to build a case publicly for stronger actions against North Vietnam.

Focus Turns to Bombing

As the Vietcong rebellion gathered strength, so did interest in bombing the North as a substitute for successful prosecution of the counterinsurgency campaign in the South, or at least as an effort to force Hanoi to reduce guerrilla activity to a level where the feeble Saigon Government could handle it.

This progression in Administration thinking was reflected in Mr. McNamara's reports to President Johnson after the Secretary's trips to Vietnam in December and March.

In his December memorandum recommending initiation of the covert 34A raids, Mr. McNamara painted a "gloomy picture" of South Vietnam, with the Vietcong controlling most of the rice and population heartland of the Mekong Delta south and west of Saigon. "We should watch the situation very carefully," he concluded, "running scared, hoping for the best, but preparing for more forceful moves if the situation does not show early signs of improvement."

Then, in his memorandum of March 16 on his latest trip, Mr. McNamara reported that "the situation has unquestionably been growing worse" and recommended military planning for two programs of "new and significant pressures upon North Vietnam."

The first, to be launched on 72 hours' notice, was described as "Border Control and Retaliatory Actions." These would include assaults by Saigon's army against infiltration routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail network of supply lines through southeastern Laos, "hot pursuit" of the guerrillas into Cambodia, "retaliatory bombing strikes" into North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese Air Force "on a tit-for-tat basis" in response to guerrilla attacks, and "aerial mining . . . (possibly with United States assistance) of the major . . . ports in North Vietnam." The words in parentheses are Mr. McNamara's.

The second program, called "Graduated Overt Military Pressure," was to be readied to begin on 30 days' notice. "This program would go beyond reacting on a tit-for-tat basis," Mr. McNamara told the President. "It would include air attacks against military and possibly industrial targets." The raids would be carried out by Saigon's air force and by an American air commando squadron code-named Farmgate, then operating in South Vietnam with planes carrying South Vietnamese markings. To conduct the air strikes, they would be reinforced by three squadrons of United States Air Force B-57 jet bombers flown in from Japan.

President Johnson approved Mr. McNamara's recommendations at a National Security Council meeting on March 17, 1964, directing that planning "proceed energetically."

Mr. McNamara had advocated trying a number of measures to improve the Saigon Government's performance first, before resorting to overt escalation. "There would be the problem of marshaling the case to justify such action, the problem of Communist escalation and the problem of dealing with pressures for premature or 'stacked' negotiations," he remarked in his March memorandum.

His description of negotiations echoed a belief in the Administration that the Government of General Khanh was incapable of competing politically with the Communists. Therefore, any attempt to negotiate a compromise political settlement of the war between the Vietnamese themselves was to be avoided because it would result in a Communist take-over and the destruction of the American position in South Vietnam.

Similarly, any internal accommodation between the opposing Vietnamese forces under the vague "neutralization" formula for Vietnam that had been proposed by President de Gaulle of France that June was seen as tantamount to the same thing, a Communist victory. In his March memorandum, Mr. McNamara mentioned the dangerous growth of "neutralist sentiment" in Saigon and the possibility of a coup by neutralist forces who might form a coalition government with the Communists and invite the United States to leave.

William Bundy would later refer to this possibility as a "Vietnam solution" that must be prevented.

In a glimpse into the President's thoughts at this time, the study shows he was concerned with the problem. Mr. Johnson told Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in a cablegram to Saigon on March 20, 1964, that he was intent on "knocking down the idea of neutralization wherever it rears its ugly head, and on this point I think nothing is more important than to stop neutralist talk wherever we can by whatever means we can." [See Document #65.]

Mr. Lodge was opposed to planning for "massive destruction actions" before trying what he described as "an essentially diplomatic carrot and stick approach, backed by covert military means."

This plan, which Mr. Lodge had been proposing since the previous October, involved sending a secret non-American envoy to Hanoi with an offer of economic aid, such as food imports to relieve the rice shortages in North Vietnam, in return for calling off the Vietcong. If the North Vietnamese did not respond favorably, the stick -- unpublicized and unacknowledged air strikes, apparently with unmarked planes -- would be applied until they did.

The President's message of March 20 shared Mr. Lodge's opinion that it was still too early for open assaults on the North.

"As we agreed in our previous messages to each other," Mr. Johnson cabled, "judgment is reserved for the present on overt military action in view of the consensus from Saigon conversations of McNamara mission with General Khanh and you on judgment that movement against the North at the present would be premature. We ... share General Khanh's judgment that the immediate and essential task is to strengthen the southern base. For this reason, our planning for action against the North is on a contingency basis at present, and immediate problem in this area is to develop the strongest possible military and political base for possible later action."

Mr. Johnson added that the Administration also expected a "showdown" soon in the Chinese-Soviet dispute "and action against the North will be more practicable" then.

This and the other sporadic insights the study gives into Mr. Johnson's thoughts and motivations during these months leading up to the Tonkin Gulf incident in August indicate a President who was, on the one hand, pushing his Administration to plan energetically for escalation while, on the other, continually hesitating to translate these plans into military action.

The glimpses are of a Chief Executive who was determined to achieve the goal of an "independent, non-Communist South Vietnam" he had enunciated in a national security action memorandum in March, yet who was holding back on actions to achieve that goal until he believed they were absolutely necessary.

Above all, the narrative indicates a President who was carefully calculating international and domestic political conditions before making any of his moves in public.

By the latter half of April, 1964, accordingly, planning for further attacks against the North had matured sufficiently' through several scenarios for Secretary Rusk, William Bundy and Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, the Army Chief of Staff, to review the plans with Ambassador Lodge at a Saigon strategy meeting on April 19 and 20.

The scenario envisioned escalation in three stages from intensification of the current clandestine 34A raids, to "covert U.S. support of overt . . . aerial mining and air strike operations" by Saigon to "overt joint . . . aerial reconnaissance, naval displays, naval bombardments and air attacks" by the United States and South Vietnam.

The analyst does not mention any provision in the April planning scenario for a Congressional resolution that would constitute authority to wage war; he refers instead to "Presidential consultations with key Congressional leaders." But the idea of a resolution was already current by then. The author reports its first emergence in discussions in the State Department in mid-February, 1964, "on the desirability of the President's requesting a Congressional resolution, drawing a line at the borders of South Vietnam." He cites a Feb. 13 letter to Secretary Rusk to this effect from Mr. Rostow, then chairman of the State Department's Policy Planning Council.

At the April Saigon meeting and in the weeks immediately afterward, the author says, "a deliberate, cautious pacing of our actions" prevailed over a near-term escalation approach being pressed by the Joint Chiefs and Mr. Rostow.

One reason for this, the study explains, was that the Administration recognized that it "lacked adequate information concerning the nature and magnitude" of infiltration of trained guerrilla leaders and arms from the North and was beginning a major effort to try to gather enough concrete evidence to justify escalation if this became necessary.

"For example," the study reports, "citing the 'lack of clarity' on the 'role of external intrusion' in South Vietnam, Walt Rostow urged William Sullivan [chairman of the interagency Vietnam coordinating committee] on the eve of [a] March visit to attempt to 'come back from Saigon with as lucid and agreed a picture' as possible on the extent of the infiltration and its influence on the Vietcong."

The direct outcome of Mr. Rusk's April visit to Saigon was his agreement to try Ambassador Lodge's carrot-and-stick approach. On April 30, 1964, the Secretary flew to Ottawa and arranged with the Canadian Government for J. Blair Seaborn, Canada's new representative on the International Control Commission, to convey the offer of United States economic aid to Premier Dong when Mr. Seaborn visited Hanoi in June.

On May 4 General Khanh, sensing a decline in his fortunes and beginning to abandon the idea of strengthening his government to the point where it could defeat the Vietcong in the South, told Ambassador Lodge that he wanted to declare war quickly on North Vietnam, have the United States start bombing and send 10,000 Special Forces troops of the United States Army into the South "to cover the whole Cambodian- Laotian border." Mr. Lodge deflected the suggestions.

Secretary McNamara, on a visit to Saigon May 13, was instructed to tell General Khanh that while the United States did not "rule out" bombing the North, "such actions must be supplementary to and not a substitute for successful counter-insurgency in the South" and that "we do not intend to provide military support nor undertake the military objective of 'rolling back' Communist control in North Vietnam."

But on May 17, when the Pathet Lao launched an offensive on the Plaine des Jarres that threatened to collapse the pro- American Government of Premier Souvanna Phouma and with it "the political underpinning of United States-Laotian policy," the study declares, this "deliberate, cautious approach" to escalation planning was suddenly thrown into "crisis management."

The Administration immediately turned the Laotian air operations up a notch by intensifying the T-28 strikes and, on May 21, by starting low-altitude target reconnaissance by United States Navy and Air Force jets over areas held by the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese.

In Washington, the chief planner, William Bundy, assisted by Mr. McNaughton and Mr. Sullivan, worked up a 30-day program culminating in full-scale bombing of the North. He submitted it as a formal draft Presidential memorandum for consideration by an executive committee of the National Security Council.

For a number of reasons, this May 23 scenario was never carried out as written. The President, in fact, delayed another nine months the scenario's denouement in an air war.

But the document is important because it reveals how far the Administration had progressed in its planning by this point and because a number of the steps in the scenario were carried out piecemeal through June and July and then very rapidly under the political climate of the Tonkin Gulf clash.

For the military side of the scenario, the President's order of March 17 to plan for retaliatory air strikes on 72 hours' notice and for full-scale air raids on 30 days' notice had borne fruit in Operation Plan 37-64.

This plan had been prepared in the Honolulu headquarters of Adm. Harry D. Felt, commander in chief of Pacific forces, or CINCPAC, and had been approved by the Joint Chiefs on April 17. It tabulated how many planes and what bomb tonnages would be required for each. phase of the strikes, listed the targets in North Vietnam with damage to be achieved, and programmed the necessary positioning of air forces for the raids. A follow-up operation plan, designated 32-64, calculated the possible reactions of China and North Vietnam and the American ground forces that might be necessary to meet them.

The Joint Staff had refined the bombing plan with more target studies. These estimated that an initial category of targets associated with infiltration, such as bridges and depots of ammunition and petroleum, could be destroyed in only 12 days if all the air power in the western Pacific were used.

For the political side of the scenario, recommendations from William Bundy and Mr. Rusk had produced more evidence of infiltration by the North for public release to justify escalation. William J. Jorden, a former correspondent of The New York Times who had become a State Department official, had gone to South Vietnam and had pulled together the data available there for a possible new State Department white paper.

Here is the scenario as the Pentagon analyst quotes it. The words in parentheses-and the numbers designating the length of time to "D-Day"-were in the original scenario and the words in brackets were inserted by the analyst for clarification:

"1. Stall off any 'conference [Laos or] Vietnam until D-Day.'

"2. Intermediary (Canadian?) tell North Vietnam in general terms that U.S. does not want to destroy the North Vietnam regime (and indeed is willing 'to provide a carrot') but is determined to protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam.

"3. (D-30) Presidential speech in general terms launching Joint Resolution.

"4. (D-20) Obtain joint resolution approving past actions and authorizing whatever is necessary with respect to Vietnam.

"Concurrently: An effort should be made to strengthen the posture in South Vietnam. Integrating (interlarding in a single chain of command) the South Vietnamese and U.S. military and civilian elements critical to pacification, down at least to the district level, might be undertaken.

"5. (D-16) Direct CINCPAC to take all prepositioning and logistic actions that can be taken 'quietly' for the D-Day forces ....

"6. (D-15) Get Khanh's agreement to start overt South Vietnamese air attacks against targets in the North (see D-Day item 15 below), and inform him of U.S. guarantee to protect South Vietnam in the event of North Vietnamese and/or Chinese retaliation.

"7. (D-14) Consult with Thailand and the Philippines to get permission for U.S. deployments; and consult with them plus U .K., Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan, asking for their open political support for the undertaking and for their participation in the re-enforcing action to be undertaken in anticipation of North Vietnamese and/or Chinese retaliation.

"8. (D-13) Release an expanded 'Jorden Report,' including recent photography and evidence of the communication nets, giving full documentation of North Vietnamese supply and direction of the Vietcong.

"9. (D-12) Direct CINCPAC to begin moving forces and making specific plans on the assumption that strikes will be made on D-Day (see Attachment B in backup materials for deployments).

"10. (D-10) Khanh makes speech demanding that North Vietnam stop aggression, threatening unspecified military action if he does not. (He could refer to a 'carrot.')

"11. (D-3) Discussions with allies not covered in Item above.

"12. (D-3) President informs U.S. public (and thereby North Vietnam) that action may come, referring to Khanh speech (Item 10 above) and declaring support for South Vietnam.

"13. (D-1) Khanh announces that all efforts have failed and that attacks are imminent. (Again he refers to limited goal and possibly to 'carrot.')

"14. (D-Day) Remove U.S. dependents.

"15. (D-Day) Launch first strikes .... Initially, mine their ports and strike North Vietnam's transport and related ability (bridge, trains) to move south; and then against targets which have maximum psychological effect on the North's willingness to stop insurgency -- POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) storage, selected airfields, barracks/ training areas, bridges, railroad yards, port facilities, communications, and industries. Initially, these strikes would be by South Vietnamese aircraft; they could then be expanded by adding Farmgate, or U.S. aircraft, or any combination of them.

"16. (D-Day) Call for conference on Vietnam (and go to U.N.). State the limited objective: Not to overthrow the North Vietnam regime nor to destroy the country, but to stop D.R.V.-directed efforts in the South. Essential that it be made clear that attacks on the North will continue (i.e., no ceasefire) until (a) terrorism, armed attacks, and armed resistance to pacification efforts in the South stop, and (b) communications on the networks out of the North are conducted entirely in uncoded form."

The last paragraph was to provide a capsule definition of what the Administration meant when it later spoke publicly about "negotiations," a definition the analyst describes as "tantamount to unconditional surrender" for the other side.

The covering memorandum on the scenario pointed out that military action would not begin until after "favorable action" on the joint Congressional resolution. William Bundy drafted the resolution on May 25.

Attached to the scenario were assessments of possible Soviet, Chinese and North Vietnamese reactions. These included a provision for reinforcing the South Vietnamese Army "by U.S. ground forces pre positioned in South Vietnam or on board ship nearby" if Hanoi reacted by intensifying Vietcong activity in the South.

After meetings on May 24 and 25, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council -- including Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, John A. McCone, Director of Central Intelligence, and McGeorge Bundy, Presidential assistant for national security -- decided to recommend to the President only piecemeal elements of the scenario. Among these were the sending of the Canadian emissary to Hanoi and the move for a joint Congressional resolution.

The documents do not provide a clear explanation for their decision, the analyst says, although an important factor seems to have been concern that "our limited objectives might have been obscured" if the Administration had begun a chain of actions to step up the war at this point.

Whether political considerations in an election year also prompted the President to limit the proposed escalation is a question that is not addressed by the study here. The narrative does attribute such motives to Mr. Johnson's similar hesitation to take major overt actions in the following month, June.

In any case, the account explains, the urgency was taken out of the Laos crisis by a Polish diplomatic initiative on May 27 for a new Laos conference that would not include discussions of Vietnam, a major fear of the Administration. The President instructed his senior advisers to convene another strategy conference in Honolulu at the beginning of June "to review for . . . final approval a series of plans for effective action."

On his way to the conference, after attending the funeral of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi, Secretary Rusk stopped off in Saigon for conversations with General Khanh and Ambassador Lodge.

The Ambassador and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who was replacing General Harkins as chief of the Military Assistance Command in Saigon, flew to Honolulu with Secretary Rusk for the strategy session at Admiral Felt's headquarters there on June 1 and 2, 1964. They were joined by William Bundy, Mr. McNamara, General Taylor, Mr. McCone and Mr. Sullivan.

While he had previously counseled patience, Mr. Lodge's chief recommendation at Honolulu reflected his growing nervousness over the shakiness of the Saigon regime. He argued for bombing the North soon.

The analyst writes: "In answer to Secretary Rusk's query about South Vietnamese popular attitudes, which supported Hanoi's revolutionary aims, the Ambassador stated his conviction that most support for the VC would fade as soon as some 'counterterrorism measures' were begun against the D.R.V." -- the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

Admiral Felt's record of the first day's session quotes Mr. Lodge as predicting that "a selective bombing campaign against military targets in the North" would "bolster morale and give the population in the South a feeling of unity."

The Honolulu discussions concentrated on an air war, ranging over its entire implications, down to such details as the kind of antiaircraft guns North Vietnam had and how difficult these defenses might make attacks on particular targets. By now the Joint Chiefs had improved on Admiral Felt's Operation Plan 37-64 to the point of producing the first version of a comprehensive list of 94 targets, from bridges to industries, that Mr. McNamara and President Johnson would use to select the actual sites to be struck when sustained air raids began in the coming year.

Obtaining a Congressional resolution "prior to wider U.S. action in Southeast Asia" was a major topic. The analyst paraphrases and quotes from William Bundy's memorandum of record on the second day's talks to summarize the discussion concerning the resolution:

"Ambassador Lodge questioned the need for it if we were to confine our actions to 'tit-for-tat' air attacks against North Vietnam. However, Secretaries McNamara and Rusk and C.I.A. Director McCone all argued in favor of the resolution. In support, McNamara pointed to the need to guarantee South Vietnam's defense against retaliatory air attacks and against more drastic reactions by North Vietnam and Communist China. He added that it might be necessary, as the action unfolded . . . to deploy as many as seven divisions. Rusk noted that some of the military requirements might involve the calling up of reserves, always a touchy Congressional issue. He also stated that public opinion on our Southeast Asia policy was badly divided in the United States at the moment and that, therefore, the President needed an affirmation of support.

"General Taylor noted that there was a danger of reasoning ourselves into inaction," the memorandum goes on. "From a military point of view, he said the U.S. could function in Southeast Asia about as well as anywhere in the world except Cuba."

The upshot of the conference, however, was that major actions "should be delayed for some time yet," the historian says. A separate briefing paper that William Bundy prepared for Secretary Rusk to use in communicating the conference's findings to the President at a White House meeting late on the afternoon of June 3 counseled more time "to refine our plans and estimates." Mr. Bundy emphasized the need for an "urgent" public relations campaign at home to "get at the basic doubts of the value of Southeast Asia and the importance of our stake there."

Secretary McNamara, General Taylor and Mr. McCone joined Secretary Rusk in making the June 3 report to the President on the Honolulu conference. A documentary record of this White House meeting is not available, but the study deduces the President's reaction and decisions from the subsequent actions taken by his senior advisers.

Where decisive military actions were concerned, "the President apparently recognized the need for more and better information, but did not convey a sense of urgency regarding its acquisition," the analyst says. He notes that on the same day as the White House meeting, "possibly just following," Secretary McNamara told the Joint Chiefs that he wanted to meet with them on June 8, five days later, "to discuss North Vietnamese targets and troop movement capabilities."

But one element of the May 23 scenario, the positioning of forces for later action, began to fall into place right after the White House meeting. The Pentagon study says that "noncommitting military actions . . . were given immediate approval."

On June 4 Mr. McNamara directed the Army to take "immediate action ... to improve the effectiveness and readiness status of its materiel prestocked for possible use in Southeast Asia."

The Secretary's directive specifically ordered the Army to augment stocks previously placed with Thailand's agreement at Korat, a town south of the Laotian border, to support potential combat operations by a United States Army infantry brigade and to give "first priority at the Okinawa Army Forward Depot to stocking non-air-transportable equipment" that would be required by another Army infantry brigade flown to the island staging base on sudden notice.

The President also "apparently encouraged" the intensified public-relations campaign recommended by William Bundy and the other Honolulu conference participants, the study asserts.

"In June, State and Defense Department sources made repeated leaks to the press affirming U.S. intentions to support its allies and uphold its treaty commitments in Southeast Asia," the analyst explains, citing several articles that month in The New York Times. The Administration also focused publicity through June and into July on its military prepositioning moves. The augmentation of the Army war stocks at Korat in Thailand was given "extensive press coverage," the account says, citing a dispatch in The Times on June 21, 1964.

And what the analyst calls "the broad purpose" of these positioning moves -- to serve as steps in the operation plans -- was not explained to the public.

The Administration did openly step up its air operations in Laos in mid-June, after the enemy provided it with a rationale of self-defense. On June 6 and 7 two Navy jets on low-altitude target reconnaissance flights were shot down by enemy ground fire. Washington immediately added armed escort jets to the reconnaissance flights and on June 9 the escort jets struck Pathet Lao gun positions and attacked a Pathet Lao headquarters.

A similar escalation of the T-28 operations and the involvement of Thai pilots was unofficially acknowledged in Washington, although the responsibility for these operations was laid to the Laotian Government. And subsequent strikes by the American escort jets against enemy positions were not made public.

At the end of June the Royal Laotian Air Force was secretly strengthened with more T-28's, and American planes began conducting troop transport operations and night reconnaissance flights for a successful counteroffensive by the Laotian Army to protect the key position of Muong Soui.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Firmness, but Restraint

President Johnson was projecting an image of firmness but moderation, the study notes. In early June, he first requested and then rejected a draft from Mr. Rostow for a major policy speech on Southeast Asia that took an "aggressive approach," and instead relied "on news conferences and speeches by other officials to state the official view," the account continues. "In contrast to the Rostow approach, [the President's] news conference on 23 June and Secretary Rusk's speech at Williams College, 14 June, emphasized the U.S. determination to support its Southeast Asian allies, but avoided any direct challenge to Hanoi and Peking or any hint of intent to increase our military commitment."

A formal question the President submitted to the C.I.A. in June also indicated what was on his mind. "Would the rest of Southeast Asia necessarily fall if Laos and South Vietnam came under North Vietnamese control?" he asked. The agency's reply on June 9 challenged the domino theory, widely believed in one form or another within the Administration.

"With the possible exception of Cambodia," the C.I.A. memorandum said, "it is likely that no nation in the area would quickly succumb to Communism as a result of the fall of Laos and South Vietnam. Furthermore, a continuation of the spread of Communism in the area would not be inexorable, and any spread which did occur would take time -- time in which the total situation might change in any number of ways unfavorable to the Communist cause."

The C.I.A. analysis conceded that the loss of South Vietnam and Laos "would be profoundly damaging to the U.S. position in the Far East" and would raise the prestige of China "as a leader of world Communism" at the expense of a more moderate Soviet Union. But the analysis argued that so long as the United States could retain its island bases, such as those on Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines and Japan, it could wield enough military power in Asia to deter China and North Vietnam from overt military aggression against Southeast Asia in general.

Even in the "worst case," if South Vietnam and Laos were to fall through "a clear-cut Communist victory," the United States would still retain some leverage to affect the final outcome in Southeast Asia, according to the analysis.

It said that "the extent to which individual countries would move away from the U.S. towards the Communists would be significantly affected by the substance and manner of U.S. policy in the period following the loss of Laos and South Vietnam."

As in the case of the earlier C.I.A. analysis stating that the real roots of Vietcong strength lay in South Vietnam, the study shows that the President and his senior officials were not inclined to adjust policy along the lines of this analysis challenging the domino theory.

Only the Joint Chiefs, Mr. Rostow and General Taylor appear to have accepted the domino theory in its literal sense -- that all of the countries of Southeast Asia, from Cambodia to Malaysia, would tumble automatically into the Communist camp if the linchpin, South Vietnam, were knocked out, and that the United States position in the rest of the Far East, from Indonesia through the Philippines to Japan and Korea, would also be irrevocably harmed.

Yet the President and most of his closest civilian advisers -- Mr. Rusk, Mr. McNamara and McGeorge Bundy -- seem to have regarded the struggle over South Vietnam in more or less these terms. [See Document #63.]

In 1964, the Administration also feared an outbreak of other "wars of national liberation" in the Asian, African and Latin American countries, and, Mr. McNamara wrote in his March 16 memorandum to the President, "the South Vietnam conflict is regarded as a test case."

The struggle in South Vietnam was likewise bound up with the idea of "containing China," whose potential shadow over Southeast Asia was viewed as a palpable threat by Mr. Rusk because of his World War II experience in Asia and the victory of Mao Tse-tung's revolution in China.

But behind these foreign-policy axioms about domino effects, wars of liberation and the containment of China, the study reveals a deeper perception among the President and his aides that the United States was now the most powerful nation in the world and that the outcome in South Vietnam would demonstrate the will and the ability of the United States to have its way in world affairs.

The study conveys an impression that the war was thus considered less important for what it meant to the South Vietnamese people than for what it meant to the position of the United States in the world.

Mr. McNaughton would later capsulize this perception in a memorandum to Mr. McNamara seeking to apportion American aims in South Vietnam:

"70 pct. -- To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).

"20 pct. -- To keep SVN (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.

"10 pct. -- To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.

"Also -- To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.

You can't have your cake and eat it too -- by

"NOT -- To 'help a friend,' although it would be hard to stay in if asked out."

The words in parentheses are Mr. McNaughton's.

Thus, he had reasoned in another memorandum, even if bombing North Vietnam did not force Hanoi to call off the Vietcong, "it would demonstrate that U.S. was a 'good doctor' willing to keep promises, be tough, take risks, get bloodied and hurt the enemy badly."

And while the study shows doubt and worry in the Administration, it also reveals an underlying confidence among the decision makers at the top, whose attitude would count, that if this mightiest nation resolved to use its vast power, the other side would buckle.

Mr. Rostow would articulate this confidence in a memorandum to Secretary Rusk that fall: "I know well the anxieties and complications on our side of the line. But there may be a tendency to underestimate both the anxieties and complications on the other side and also to underestimate that limited but real margin of influence on the outcome that flows from the simple fact that we are the greatest power in the world -- if we behave like it."

Accordingly, in mid-June, the Administration carried out another element of the May 23 scenario, the element that had first been formulated by Ambassador Lodge as his "carrot and stick." On June 18, at the Administration's request, Mr. Seaborn, the new Canadian representative on the International Control Commission, paid the first of his two secret calls on Premier Dong in Hanoi.

Washington sought to convey to North Vietnam through Mr. Seaborn the more precise and threatening meaning of the preparatory military deployments to Southeast Asia that it was publicizing on a vaguer level in public. Back in May, Mr. Lodge had urged an unacknowledged air strike on some target in the North "as a prelude to his [Mr. Seaborn's] arrival" if the Vietcong had recently committed some terrorist act "of the proper magnitude" in the South, but the President apparently did not see fit to act on the suggestion by June.

The analyst says Mr. Seaborn stressed to Premier Dong that while the United States' ambition in Southeast Asia was limited and its intentions "essentially peaceful," its patience was not limitless. The United States was fully aware of the degree to which Hanoi controlled the Vietcong, Mr. Seaborn said, and "in the event of escalation the greatest devastation would of course result for the D.R.V. itself."

The North Vietnamese Premier, the study relates, "fully understood the seriousness and import of the warning conveyed by Seaborn." Whether Mr. Seaborn also proffered the "carrot" of food and other economic aid is not reported.

At the June 3 meeting at the White House, the President had also apparently approved continued work for the Congressional resolution, the historian says, because planning for it continued apace. "Its intended purpose," the historian comments, "was to dramatize and make clear to other nations the firm resolve of the United States Government in an election year to support the President in taking whatever action was necessary to resist Communist aggression in Southeast Asia."

By June 10, there was "firm support" from most of the foreign-policy-making machinery of the Government for obtaining the resolution, although the account notes that at an interagency meeting that day "five basic 'disagreeable questions' were identified for which the Administration would have to provide convincing answers to assure public support.

"These included: ( 1) Does this imply a blank check for the President to go to war in Southeast Asia? (2) What kinds of force could he employ under this authorization? (3) What change in the situation (if any) requires the resolution now? (4) Can't our objectives be attained by means other than U.S. military force? (5) Does Southeast Asia mean enough to U.S. national interests?"

Despite the prospect of having to answer these questions publicly, William Bundy wrote in a memorandum for a second interagency meeting on June 12, the Administration required a Congressional resolution immediately as "a continuing demonstration of U.S. firmness and for complete flexibility in the hands of the executive in the coming political months." While the United States did not expect "to move in the near future to military action against North Vietnam," he said, events in South Vietnam or Laos might force it to reconsider this position.

But in the opinion of the analyst, the President in June, 1964, already felt "the political conventions just around the corner and the election issues regarding Vietnam clearly drawn," and so he recoiled at this time from the repercussions of major escalation and of seeking a Congressional resolution. At a high-level meeting on both subjects June 15, McGeorge Bundy, the historian says, brought Presidential guidance to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara in the form of a White House memorandum that postponed a decision for the present.

Washington's efforts to achieve some political stability in Saigon and to hold the line militarily against the guerrillas were coming to naught, however, under the blows of the Vietcong. In his fear and nervousness, General Khanh broke a promise he had made to Ambassador Lodge and Secretary Rusk in their May meeting to consult with Washington before publicly announcing any intention to declare war on the North and to start a bombing campaign.

On July 19, he started a "March North" campaign of militant slogans and oratory at a "unification rally" in Saigon. The same day, as the analyst puts it, Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, then chief of the South Vietnamese Air Force, "spilled the beans to reporters" on joint planning that the United States and the Saigon Government had secretly been conducting since June, with President Johnson's approval, for ground and air assaults in Laos.

In an emotional meeting on July 23 with General Taylor, who had just replaced Mr. Lodge as Ambassador, General Khanh asserted that North Vietnamese draftees had been taken prisoner with Vietcong guerrillas in fighting in the northern provinces. The United States should realize, he said, that the war had entered a new phase that called for new measures.

During another heated meeting on July 24, General Khanh asked Ambassador Taylor whether to resign. The Ambassador asked him not to do so and cabled Washington urging that the United States undertake covert joint planning with the South Vietnamese for bombing the North.

The State Department, the study says, immediately authorized Ambassador Taylor "to tell Khanh the U.S.G. had considered attacks on North Vietnam that might begin, for example, if the pressure from dissident South Vietnamese factions became too great. He must keep this confidential."

The Pentagon narrative skims over the last few days in July, 1964, but a summary of a command and control study of the Tonkin Gulf incident done by the Defense Department's Weapons System Evaluation Group in 1965, which The Times obtained along with the Pentagon narratives, fills in the events of these few days.

The study discloses that after a National Security Council meeting called on July 25, apparently to discuss these critical developments in Saigon, the Joint Chiefs proposed air strikes by unmarked planes flown by non-American crews against several targets in North Vietnam, including the coastal bases for Hanoi's flotilla of torpedo boats.

Assistant Secretary McNaughton sent the Joint Chiefs' memorandum to Secretary Rusk on July 30, the study reports, the same day that a chain of events was to unfold that would make it unnecessary to carry out the Joint Chiefs' plan, even if the President had wanted to accept it.

The Pentagon narrative now remarks that the clandestine 34A raids against North Vietnam -- after getting off to what the Joint Chiefs had called "a slow beginning" in a report to Mr. McNamara on May 19 -- picked up in tempo and size during the summer, although the analyst provides few details. The Joint Chiefs had informed Mr. McNamara that trained sabotage teams, electronic intelligence-gathering equipment, C-123 transports for the airdrops and fast PT boats for the coastal raids were giving the program "growing operational capabilities.

At midnight on July 30, South Vietnamese naval commandos under General Westmoreland's command staged an amphibious raid on the North Vietnamese islands of Hon Me and Hon Nieu in the Gulf of Tonkin.

While the assault was occurring, the United States destroyer Maddox was 120 to 130 miles away, heading north into the gulf on the year's second De Soto intelligence-gathering patrol. Her sailing orders said she was not to approach closer than eight nautical miles to the North Vietnamese coast and four nautical miles to North Vietnamese islands in the gulf.

The account does not say whether the captain of the Maddox had been informed about the 34A raid. He does state that the Maddox altered course twice on Aug. 2 to avoid a concentration of three North Vietnamese torpedo boats and a fleet of junks that were still searching the seas around the islands for the raiders.

The destroyer reached the northernmost point of her assigned patrol track the same day and headed south again.

"When the [North Vietnamese] PT boats began their high-speed run at her, at a distance of approximately 10 miles, the destroyer was 23 miles from the coast and heading further into international waters," the study says. "Apparently," it explains, "these boats . . . had mistaken Maddox for a South Vietnamese escort vessel."

In the ensuing engagement, two of the torpedo boats were damaged by planes launched from the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga, stationed to the south for reasons the study does not explain. A third PT boat was knocked dead in the water, sunk by a direct hit from one of the Maddox's five-inch guns.

The next day, Aug. 3, President Johnson ordered the Maddox reinforced by the destroyer C. Turner Joy and directed that both destroyers be sent back into the gulf, this time with instructions not to approach closer than 11 nautical miles to the North Vietnamese coast. A second aircraft carrier, the Constellation, on a visit to Hong Kong, was instructed to make steam and join the Ticonderoga as quickly as possible.

The study terms these reinforcing actions "a normal precaution" in the light of the first attack on the Maddox and not an attempt to use the destroyers as bait for another attack that would provide a pretext for reprisal airstrikes against the North. "Moreover," it comments, "since the augmentation was coupled with a clear [public] statement of intent to continue the patrols and a firm warning to the D.R.V. that a repetition would bring dire consequences, their addition to the patrol could be expected to serve more as a deterrent than a provocation."

The study gives a clear impression that the Administration at this moment did not believe the North Vietnamese would dare to attack the reinforced destroyer patrol.

For on the night of Aug. 3, while the De Soto patrol was resuming, two more clandestine 34A attacks were staged. PT boats manned by South Vietnamese crews bombarded the Rhon River estuary and a radar installation at Vinhson. This time the Maddox and the Turner Joy were definitely warned that the clandestine assaults were going to take place, the documents show.

Apparently expecting the President to order a resumption of the patrol, the admiral commanding the Seventh Fleet asked General Westmoreland on Aug. 2 to furnish him the general location of the planned raids so that the destroyers could steer clear of the 34A force. There was a good deal of cable traffic back and forth between the two commanders through the Pentagon communications center in Washington to modify the patrol's course on Aug. 3 to avoid any interference with the raiders.

On the night of Aug. 4, Tonkin Gulf time, approximately 24 hours after this second 34A assault, North Vietnamese torpedo boats then attacked both the Maddox and the Turner Joy in what was to be the fateful clash in the gulf.

The Pentagon account says that Hanoi's motives for this second attack on the destroyers are still unclear. The narrative ties the attack to the chain of events set off by the 34A raids of July 30, but says that Hanoi's precise motive may have been to recover from the embarrassment of having two torpedo boats damaged and another sunk in the first engagement with the Maddox, without any harm to the American destroyer.

"Perhaps closer to the mark is the narrow purpose of prompt retaliation for an embarrassing and well-publicized rebuff by a much-maligned enemy," the narrative says. "Inexperienced in modern naval operations, D.R.V. leaders may have believed that under the cover of darkness it would be possible to even the score or to provide at least a psychological victory by severely damaging a U.S. ship."

The study does not raise the question whether the second 34A raid on the night of Aug. 3, or the apparent air strikes on North Vietnamese villages just across the Laotian border on Aug. 1. and 2 by T-28 planes, motivated the Hanoi leadership in any way to order the second engagement with the destroyers.

Marshall Green, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, mentioned the apparent bombing of the villages in a lengthy memorandum to William Bundy dated Nov. 7, 1964, on United States covert activities in Indochina. [See Document #73.]

Listing complaints that North Vietnam had been making to the International Control Commission over the T-28 operations with Thai pilots, Mr. Green noted charges by Hanoi that "T-28's have violated North Vietnamese airspace and bombed/ strafed NVN villages on Aug. 1 and 2, and on Oct. 16 and 17 and again on Oct. 28. The charges are probably accurate with respect to the first two dates (along Route 7) and the last one (Mugia Pass area)." The words in parentheses are Mr. Green's.

The context of the memorandum indicates that the raids on the North Vietnamese villages may have been inadvertent. But neither the narrative nor Mr. Green's memorandum says whether Hanoi thought this at the time the air strikes occurred.

Whatever the North Vietnamese motives for the second clash, President Johnson moved quickly now to carry out what the analyst calls "recommendations made . . . by his principal advisers earlier that summer and subsequently placed on the shelf."

Because of the Pacific time difference, the Pentagon received the first word that an attack on the Maddox and the Turner Joy might be imminent at 9:20 A.M. on the morning of Aug. 4, after the destroyers had intercepted North Vietnamese radio traffic indicating preparations for an assault. The flash message that the destroyers were actually engaged came into the communications center at 11 A.M.

The Joint Chiefs' staff began selecting target options for reprisal air strikes from the 94-target list, the first version of which was drawn up at the end of May. Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, who had replaced Admiral Felt as commander in chief of Pacific forces, telephoned from Honolulu to suggest bombing the coastal bases for the torpedo boats.

Within 10 minutes, Mr. McNamara convened a meeting with the Joint Chiefs in his conference room on the third floor of the Pentagon to discuss possibilities for retaliation. Secretary Rusk and McGeorge Bundy came over to join them.

Twenty-five minutes later the two secretaries and Mr. Bundy left for a previously scheduled National Security Council meeting at the White House. They would recommend reprisal strikes to the President, while the Joint Chiefs stayed at the Pentagon to decide on specific targets.

At 1:25 P.M., two and a half hours after the flash message of the engagement and possibly while Mr. McNamara, Mr. Rusk, Mr. McCone and McGeorge Bundy were still at lunch with the President, the director of the Joint Staff telephoned Mr. McNamara to say that the Chiefs had unanimously agreed on the targets. Fighter-bombers from the carriers Constellation and Ticonderoga should strike four torpedo boat bases at Hongay, Lochau, Phucloi and Quangkhe, and an oil storage depot near Vinh that held some 10 per cent of North Vietnam's petroleum supply.

At a second National Security Council meeting that afternoon, President Johnson ordered the reprisals, decided to seek the Congressional resolution immediately and discussed with his advisers the swift Southeast Asia deployment of the air strike forces designated in Operation Plan 37-64 for the opening blows in a possible bombing campaign against the North. His approval for these preparatory air deployments, and for the readiness of Marine Corps and Army units planned to meet any Chinese or North Vietnamese retaliation to a bombing campaign, was apparently given later that day, the study shows.

Mr. McNamara returned to the Pentagon at 3 P.M. to approve the details of the reprisal strikes, code-named Pierce Arrow. An execution order was prepared by the Joint Staff, but at 4 P.M. Mr. McNamara learned from Admiral Sharp in a telephone conversation that there was now confusion over whether an attack on the destroyers had actually taken place.

The Secretary told Admiral Sharp that the reprisal order would remain in effect, but that the admiral was to check and make certain that an attack had really occurred before actually launching the planes. At 4:49 P.M., less than six hours after the first message of the attack had flashed into the Pentagon communications center, the formal execution order for the reprisals was transmitted to Honolulu. Admiral Sharp had not yet called back with confirming details of the attack. The order specified that the carriers were to launch their planes within about two and a half hours.

The admiral called back at 5 :23 P.M. and again a few minutes after 6 o'clock to say that he was satisfied, on the basis of information from the task group commander of the two destroyers, that the attack had been genuine. The study says that in the meantime Mr. McNamara and the Joint Chiefs had also examined the confirming evidence, including intercepted radio messages from the North Vietnamese saying that their vessels were engaging the destroyers and that two torpedo boats had been sunk.

By now Mr. McNamara and the Chiefs had moved on to discussing the prepositioning of the air strike forces under Operation Plan 37-64.

At 6:45 P.M., President Johnson met with 16 Congressional leaders from both parties whom he had summoned to the White House. He told them that because of the second unprovoked attack on the American destroyers, he had decided to launch reprisal air strikes against the North and to ask for a Congressional resolution, the study says.

The Pentagon study gives no indication that Mr. Johnson informed the Congressional leaders of United States responsibility for and command of the covert 34A raids on July 30 and Aug. 3.

Nor does the history give any indication that Mr. Johnson told the Congressional leaders of what the historian describes as "the broader purpose of the deployments" under Operation Plan 37-64, which Mr. McNamara was to announce at a Pentagon news conference the next day and describe as a precautionary move.

"It is significant," the analyst writes, "that few of these additional units were removed from the western Pacific when the immediate crisis subsided. In late September the fourth attack aircraft carrier was authorized to resume its normal station in the eastern Pacific as soon as the regularly assigned carrier completed repairs. The other forces remained in the vicinity of their August deployment."

At 8:30 P.M. on Aug. 4, Mr. McNamara returned to the Pentagon and at 11: 30 P.M., after several telephone calls to Admiral Sharp, he learned that the Ticonderoga had launched her bomb-laden aircraft at 10:43 P.M. They were expected to arrive over their targets in about an hour and 50 minutes.

The carriers had needed more time to get into launching position than the execution order had envisioned. The Constellation, steaming from Hong Kong, was not to launch her planes for another couple of hours.

The President did not wait. Sixteen minutes after Mr. McNamara's last phone call to Admiral Sharp, at 11: 36 P.M., he went on television to tell the nation of the reprisal strikes. He characterized his actions as a "limited and fitting" response. "We still seek no wider war," he said.

Almost simultaneously, the air deployments under Operation Plan 37-64 had begun.

The first F-I02 Delta Dagger jet fighters were landing at Saigon's airport around the time Mr. McNamara described the deployments at a Pentagon news conference on Aug. 5. He had given a brief post-midnight conference the same day to describe the reprisal strikes. He reported now that 25 North Vietnamese patrol craft had been destroyed or damaged along with 90 per cent of the oil storage tanks near Vinh.

"Last night I announced that moves were under way to reinforce our forces in the Pacific area," he continued. "These moves include the following actions:

"First, an attack carrier group has been transferred from the First Fleet on the Pacific coast to the western Pacific. Secondly, interceptor and fighter-bomber aircraft have been moved into South Vietnam. Thirdly, fighter-bomber aircraft have been moved into Thailand. Fourthly, interceptor and fighter-bomber squadrons have been transferred from the United States into advance bases in the Pacific. Fifthly, an antisubmarine task force group has been moved into the South China Sea. And finally, selected Army and Marine forces have been alerted and readied for movement."

The study notes that the Administration drafted the Congressional resolution for the two men who would sponsor its passage through both houses for the President: Senator J. W. Fulbright of Arkansas, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Precisely who drafted this final version of the resolution is not mentioned. The wording was less precise than that of the resolution drafted by William Bundy for the May 23 scenario, but the key language making the resolution in effect a declaration of war remained:

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approve and support the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

"Sec. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom."

Mr. McNamara and Secretary Rusk both testified on behalf of the resolution in secret sessions of the Senate and House foreign relations committees on Aug. 6. In his narrative, the Pentagon analyst occasionally quotes from and refers to portions of their testimony that have never been made public by the Pentagon. Along with the study, The Times also obtained more extensive quotations from this portion of the hearing transcript. The following account of the testimony on Aug. 6 thus contains both quotations used by the Pentagon analyst and the fuller quotations obtained by The Times.

Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon had learned that boats manned by South Vietnamese crews had attacked the two North Vietnamese islands on July 30. Mr. Morse, one of two Senators who were to vote against the Tonkin Gulf resolution -- the other was Ernest L. Gruening of Alaska -- alleged during the secret hearing on Aug. 6 that Mr. McNamara had known about the raids and that the destroyers had been associated with it.

"First," Mr. McNamara replied, "our Navy played absolutely no part in, was not associated with, was not aware of, any South Vietnamese actions, if there were any. . . . The Maddox was operating in international waters, was carrying out a routine patrol of the type we carry out all over the world at all times.

"I did not have knowledge at the time of the attack on the island," he said. "There is no connection between this patrol and any action by South Vietnam."

Mr. McNamara contended that whatever action had taken place against these North Vietnamese islands had been part of an anti-infiltration operation being conducted by a fleet of coastal patrol junks the United States had helped South Vietnam to organize in December, 1961.

"In the first seven months of this year they have searched 149,000 junks, some 570,000 people," he is quoted as telling the committee in this secret session. "This is a tremendous operation endeavoring to close the seacoasts of over 900 miles. In the process of that action, as the junk patrol has increased in strength, they have moved farther and farther north endeavoring to find the source of the infiltration.

"As part of that, as I reported to you earlier this week, [Mr. McNamara had testified before the committee in a secret session on Aug. 3 after the first attack on the Maddox], we understand that the South Vietnamese sea force carried out patrol action around these islands and actually shelled the parts they felt were associated with this infiltration.

"Our ships had absolutely no knowledge of it, were not connected with it; in no sense of the word can be considered to have backstopped the effort," he said.

Senator Frank Church of Idaho then asked Secretary Rusk at the same secret session: "I take it that our government which supplied these boats . . . . did know that the boats would be used for attacks on North Vietnamese targets, and that we acquiesced in that policy, is that correct?"

"... In the larger sense, that is so, but as far as any particular detail is concerned we don't from Washington follow that in great detail," Mr. Rusk replied.

"They are doing it with our acquiescence and consent, is that correct?" Senator Church continued.

"But within very limited levels as far as North Vietnam is concerned," Mr. Rusk said.

At a Pentagon news conference after his testimony before the committee, Mr. McNamara spoke about the coastal patrol junks again and avoided any specific mention of the July 30 raid:

Q. Mr. Secretary?

A. Yes?

Q. Have there been any incidents that you know involving the South Vietnamese vessels and the North Vietnamese?

A. No, none that I know of, although I think that I should mention to you the South Vietnamese naval patrol activities that are carried on to prevent in the infiltration of men and materiel from the North into the South.

In the last seven months of 1961, for example, about 1,400 men were infiltrated across the 17th Parallel from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. To prevent further infiltration of that kind, the South Vietnamese with our assistance have set up a naval patrol which is very active in that area which continues to inspect and examine junks and their personnel.

In one eight-month period that I can recall they discovered 140 Vietcong infiltrators.

Q. They operate on their own?

A. They operate on their own. They are part of the South Vietnamese Navy, commanded by the South Vietnamese Navy, operating in the coastal waters inspecting suspicious incoming junks, seeking to deter and prevent the infiltration of both men and materiel from North Vietnam into South Vietnam.

Q. Mr. Secretary. Do these junks go north into North Vietnam areas?

A. They have advanced closer and closer to the 17th Parallel and in some cases I think have moved beyond that in an effort to stop the infiltration closer to the point of origin.

Q. Do our naval vessels afford any cover for these operations?

A. Our naval vessels afford no cover whatsoever. Our naval personnel do not participate in the junk operations.

When Senator George S. McGovern of South Dakota subsequently brought up the July 30 attack on the islands during the Senate floor debate on the resolution, Senator Fulbright replied that he had been assured by the Administration that "our boats did not convoy or support or back up any South Vietnamese naval vessels" and that the destroyer patrol "was entirely unconnected or un associated with any coastal forays the South Vietnamese themselves may have conducted."

The Congressional resolution passed on Aug. 7 by a vote of 88 to 2 in the Senate and 416 to 0 in the House.

The history shows that besides the May 19 progress report from the Joint Chiefs on the 34A Operations, Mr. McNamara had received other memorandums on the clandestine attacks from General Anthis, the special assistant to the Joint Chiefs, on June 13, July 1 and July 28, 1964. General Anthis drew up the advance monthly schedules of the covert operations for approval by William Bundy and Mr. McNaughton.

Where Mr. Rusk is concerned, the study reveals that he was kept reasonably well informed.

The study also makes it clear that there was no connection between the 34A raids and the coastal patrol junk fleet described by Mr. McNamara and referred to by Mr. Rusk.

Thus, in the space of three days, the Administration had put firmly into place two key elements of the May 23 scenario -- prepositioning of major air strike forces and Congressional authorization for wider action.

Internal Administration planning for Congressional authorization to escalate also now disappears from the documentary record. The account notes that during the next round of planning "the question of Congressional authority for open acts of war against a sovereign nation was never seriously raised."

There was confusion in Congress, however, over precisely what the resolution meant, the account says, commenting:

"Despite the nearly unanimous votes of support for the resolution, Congressional opinions varied as to the policy implications and the meaning of such support. The central belief seemed to be that the occasion necessitated demonstrating the nation's unity and collective will in support of the President's action and affirming U.S. determination to oppose further aggression. However, beyond that theme, there was a considerable variety of opinion .... Several spokesmen stressed that the resolution did not constitute a declaration of war, did not abdicate Congressional responsibility for determining national policy commitments and did not give the President carte blanche to involve the nation in a major Asian war."

The Administration would now communicate the meaning of the resolution to Hanoi by carrying out in a more significant manner an element of the May 23 scenario that Washington had already used once in June when the Canadian emissary had paid his first visit to Hanoi.

On Aug. 10, Mr. Seaborn was sent back with a second message for Premier Dong, which concluded:

"a. That the events of the past few days should add credibility to the statement made last time, that 'U.S. public and official patience with North Vietnamese aggression is growing extremely thin.'

"b. That the U.S. Congressional resolution was passed with near unanimity, strongly reaffirming the unity and determination of the U.S. Government and people not only with respect to any further attacks on U.S. military forces but more broadly to continue to oppose firmly, by all necessary means, D.R.V. efforts to subvert and conquer South Viet-Nam and Laos.

"c. That the U.S. has come to the view that the D.R.Y. role in South Vietnam and Laos is critical. If the D.R.Y. persists in its present course, it can expect to continue to suffer the consequences. [The word "continue" referred to the reprisal air strikes that followed the Tonkin incident.]

"d. That the D.R.V. knows what it must do if the peace is to be restored.

"e. That the U.S. has ways and means of measuring the D.R.V.'s participation in, and direction and control of, the war on South Vietnam and in Laos and will be carefully watching the D.R.V.'s response to what Mr. Seaborn is telling them." [See Document #68.]

Mr. McNaughton had drafted the message on the day the resolution was passed.

During this, as in his first meeting with Mr. Seaborn in June, the history says, "Pham Van Dong showed himself utterly unintimidated and calmly resolved to pursue the course upon which the D.R.V. was embarked to what he confidently expected would be its successful conclusion."

In the heat of the Tonkin clash, the Administration had also accomplished one of the major recommendations of the June strategy conference at Honolulu -- preparing the American public for escalation.

"The Tonkin Gulf reprisal constituted an important firebreak and the Tonkin Gulf resolution set U.S. public support for virtually any action," the study remarks.

Almost none of the "disagreeable questions" the Administration might have to answer about the resolution, which had given the President pause in mid-June, had been asked in the emotional atmosphere of the crisis.

And inside the Administration the planners were moving more quickly now.

On Aug. 10, three days after passage of the resolution, Ambassador Taylor cabled the President a situation report on South Vietnam. It said that the Khanh regime had only "a 50-50 chance of lasting out the year." Therefore, a major objective of the United States Mission in Saigon was to "be prepared to implement contingency plans against North Vietnam with optimum readiness by Jan. 1, 1965."

On Aug. 11, four days after passage of the resolution, William Bundy drew up a memorandum for a high-level State-Defense Departments policy meeting. The memorandum outlined graduated steps towards a possible full-scale air war against North Vietnam with "a contingency date, as suggested by Ambassador Taylor, of 1 January 1965." But until the end of August, Mr. Bundy said, there should be "a short holding phase, in which we would avoid actions that would in any way take the onus off the Communist side for escalation." [See Document #70.]

On Aug. 14, a lengthy summary of Mr. Bundy's memorandum was cabled to Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Unger in Vientiane, and to Admiral Sharp in Honolulu for comments that would permit "further review and refinement."

The Tonkin Gulf reprisal air strikes, the analyst writes, "marked the crossing of an important threshold in the war, and it was accomplished with virtually no domestic criticism, indeed, with an evident increase in public support for the Administration. The precedent for strikes against the North was thus established and at very little apparent cost.

"There was a real cost, however," he concludes, in that the Administration was psychologically preparing itself for further escalation. "The number of unused measures short of direct military action against the North had been depleted. Greater visible commitment was purchased at the price of reduced flexibility." And "for all these reasons, when a decision to strike the North was faced again, it was much easier to take."

Admiral Sharp, in his cable to Washington on Aug. 17 commenting on Mr. Bundy's memorandum, "candidly" summed up this psychological commitment, the analyst says.

"Pressures against the other side once instituted should not be relaxed by any actions or lack of them which would destroy the benefits of the rewarding steps previously taken," the admiral wrote.


Following are the texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, for the period December, 1963, through the Tonkin Gulf incident in August, 1964, and its aftermath. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents are printed verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

#61: McNamara Report to Johnson on the Situation in Saigon in '63

Memorandum, "Vietnam Situation," from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Dec. 21, 1963.

In accordance with your request this morning, this is a summary of my conclusions after my visit to Vietnam on December 19-20.

1. Summary. The situation is very disturbing. Current trends, unless reversed in the next 2-3 months, will lead to neutralization at best and more likely to a Communist-controlled state.

2. The new government is the greatest source of concern. It is indecisive and drifting. Although Minh states that he, rather than the Committee of Generals, is making decisions, it is not clear that this is actually so. In any event, neither he nor the Committee are experienced in political administration and so far they show little talent for it. There is no clear concept on how to re-shape or conduct the strategic hamlet program; the Province Chiefs, most of whom are new and inexperienced, are receiving little or no direction because the generals are so preoccupied with essentially political affairs. A specific example of the present situation is that General [name illegible] is spending little or no time commanding III Corps, which is in the vital zone around Saigon and needs full-time direction. I made these points as strongly as possible to Minh, Don, Kim, and Tho.

3. The Country Team is the second major weakness. It lacks leadership, has been poorly informed, and is not working to a common plan. A recent example of confusion has been conflicting USOM and military recommendations both to the Government of Vietnam and to Washington on the size of the military budget. Above all, Lodge has virtually no official contact with Harkins. Lodge sends in reports with major military implications without showing them to Harkins, and does not show Harkins important incoming traffic. My impression is that Lodge simply does not know how to conduct a coordinated administration. This has of course been stressed to him both by Dean Rusk and myself (and also by John McCone), and I do not think he is consciously rejecting our advice; he has just operated as a loner all his life and cannot readily change now.

Lodge's newly-designated deputy, David Nes, was with us and seems a highly competent team player. I have stated the situation frankly to him and he has said he would do all he could to constitute what would in effect be an executive committee operating below the level of the Ambassador.

As to the grave reporting weakness, both Defense and CIA must take major steps to improve this, John McCone and I have discussed it and are acting vigorously in our respective spheres.

4. Viet Cong progress has been great during the period since the coup, with my best guess being that the situation has in fact been deteriorating in the countryside since July to a far greater extent than we realized because of our undue dependence on distorted Vietnamese reporting. The Viet Cong now control very high proportions of the people in certain key provinces, particularly those directly south and west of Saigon. The Strategic Hamlet Program was seriously over-extended in those provinces, and the Viet Cong has been able to destroy many hamlets, while others have been abandoned or in some cases betrayed or pillaged by the government's own Self Defense Corps. In these key provinces, the Viet Cong have destroyed almost all major roads, and are collecting taxes at will.

As remedial measures, we must get the government to reallocate its military forces so that its effective strength in these provinces is essentially doubled. We also need to have major increases in both military and USOM staffs, to sizes that will give us a reliable, independent U.S. appraisal of the status of operations. Thirdly, realistic pacification plans must be prepared, allocating adequate time to secure the remaining government-controlled areas and work out from there.

This gloomy picture prevails predominantly in the provinces around the capital and in the Delta. Action to accomplish each of these objectives was started while we were in Saigon. The situation in the northern and central areas is considerably better, and does not seem to have deteriorated substantially in recent months. General Harkins still hopes these areas may be made reasonably secure by the latter half of next year.

In the gloomy southern picture, an exception to the trend of Viet Cong success may be provided by the possible adherence to the government of the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects, which total three million people and control key areas along the Cambodian border. The Hoa Hao have already made some sort of agreement, and the Cao Dai are expected to do so at the end of this month. However, it is not clear that their influence will be more than neutralized by these agreements, or that they will in fact really pitch in on the government's side.

5. Infiltration of men and equipment from North Vietnam continues using (a) land corridors through Laos and Cambodia; (b) the Mekong River waterways from Cambodia; (c) some possible entry from the sea and the tip of the Delta. The best guess is that 1000-1500 Viet Cong cadres entered South Vietnam from Laos in the first nine months of 1963. The Mekong route (and also the possible sea entry) is apparently used for heavier weapons and ammunition and raw materials which have been turning up in increasing numbers in the south and of which we have captured a few shipments.

To counter this infiltration, we reviewed in Saigon various plans providing for cross-border operations into Laos. On the scale proposed, I am quite clear that these would not be politically acceptable or even militarily effective. Our first need would be immediate U-2 mapping of the whole Laos and Cambodian border, and this we are preparing on an urgent basis.

One other step we can take is to expand the existing limited but remarkably effective operations on the Laos side, the so-called Operation HARDNOSE, so that it at least provides reasonable intelligence on movements all the way along the Laos corridor; plans to expand this will be prepared and presented for approval in about two weeks.

As to the waterways, the military plans presented in Saigon were unsatisfactory, and a special naval team is being sent at once from Honolulu to determine what more can be done. The whole waterway system is so vast, however. that effective policing may be impossible.

In general, the infiltration problem, while serious and annoying, is a lower priority than the key problems discussed earlier. However, we should do what we can to reduce it.

6. Plans for Covert Action into North Vietnam were prepared as we had requested and were an excellent job. They present a wide variety of sabotage and psychological operations against North Vietnam from which I believe we should aim to select those that provide maximum pressure with minimum risk. In accordance with your direction at the meeting. General Krulak of the JCS is chairing a group that will layout a program in the next ten days for your consideration.

7. Possible neutralization of Vietnam is strongly opposed by Minh, and our attitude is somewhat suspect because of editorials by the New York Times and mention by Walter Lippmann and others. We reassured them as strongly as possible on this -- and in somewhat more general terms on the neutralization of Cambodia. I recommend that you convey to Minh a Presidential message for the New Year that would also be a vehicle to stress the necessity of strong central direction by the government and specifically by Minh himself.

8. U.S. resources and personnel cannot usefully be substantially increased. I have directed a modest artillery supplement, and also the provision of uniforms for the Self Defense Corps, which is the most exposed force and suffers from low morale. Of greater potential significance, I have directed the Military Departments to review urgently the quality of the people we are sending to Vietnam. It seems to have fallen off considerably from the high standards applied in the original selections in 1962, and the JCS fully agree with me that we must have our best men there.

Conclusion. My appraisal may be overly pessimistic. Lodge, Harkins, and Minh would probably agree with me on specific points, but feel that January should see significant improvement. We should watch the situation very carefully, running scared, hoping for the best, but preparing for more forceful moves if the situation does not show early signs of improvement.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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#62: '64 Memo by Joint Chiefs of Staff Discussing Widening of the War

Memorandum from Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Jan. 22, 1964, "Vietnam and Southeast Asia."

1. National Security Action Memorandum No. 273 makes clear the resolve of the President to ensure victory over the externally directed and supported communist insurgency in South Vietnam. In order to achieve that victory, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that the United States must be prepared to put aside many of the self-imposed restrictions which now limit our efforts, and to undertake bolder actions which may embody greater risks.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are increasingly mindful that our fortunes in South Vietnam are an accurate barometer of our fortunes in all of Southeast Asia. It is our view that if the U.S. program succeeds in South Vietnam it will go far toward stabilizing the total Southeast Asia situation. Conversely, a loss of South Vietnam to the communists will presage an early erosion of the remainder of our position in that subcontinent.

3. Laos, existing on a most fragile foundation now, would not be able to endure the establishment of a communist- -- r pseudo neutralist -- state on its eastern flank. Thailand, less strong today than a month ago by virtue of the loss of Prime Minister Sarit, would probably be unable to withstand the pressures of infiltration from the north should Laos collapse to the communists in its turn. Cambodia apparently has estimated that our prospects in South Vietnam are not promising and, encouraged by the actions of the French, appears already to be seeking an accommodation with the communists. Should we actually suffer defeat in South Vietnam, there is little reason to believe that Cambodia would maintain even a pretense of neutrality.

4. In a broader sense, the failure of our programs in South Vietnam would have heavy influence on the judgments of Burma, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of the Philippines with respect to U.S. durability, resolution, and trustworthiness. Finally, this being the first real test of our determination to defeat the communist wars of national liberation formula, it is not unreasonable to conclude that there would be a corresponding unfavorable effect upon our image in Africa and in Latin America.

5. All of this underscores the pivotal position now occupied by South Vietnam in our world-wide confrontation with the communists and the essentiality that the conflict there would be brought to a favorable end as soon as possible. However, it would be unrealistic to believe that a complete suppression of the insurgency can take place in one or even two years. The British effort in Malaya is a recent example of a counterinsurgency effort which required approximately ten years before the bulk of the rural population was brought completely under control of the government, the police were able to maintain order, and the armed forces were able to eliminate the guerrilla strongholds.

6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are convinced that, in keeping with the guidance in NSAM 273, the United States must make plain to the enemy our determination to see the Vietnam campaign through to a favorable conclusion. To do this, we must prepare for whatever level of activity may be required and, being prepared, must then proceed to take actions as necessary to achieve our purposes surely and promptly.

7. Our considerations, furthermore, cannot be confined entirely to South Vietnam. Our experience in the war thus far leads us to conclude that, in this respect, we are not now giving sufficient attention to the broader area problems of Southeast Asia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that our position in Cambodia, our attitude toward Laos, our actions in Thailand, and our great effort in South Vietnam do not comprise a compatible and integrated U.S. policy for Southeast Asia. U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia cannot be achieved by either economic, political, or military measures alone. All three fields must be integrated into a single, broad U.S. program for Southeast Asia. The measures recommended in this memorandum are a partial contribution to such a program.

8. Currently we and the South Vietnamese are fighting the war on the enemy's terms. He has determined the locale, the timing, and the tactics of the battle while our actions are essentially reactive. One reason for this is the fact that we have obliged ourselves to labor under self-imposed restrictions with respect to impeding external aid to the Viet Congo These restrictions include keeping the war within the boundaries of South Vietnam, avoiding the direct use of U.S. combat forces, and limiting U.S. direction of the campaign to rendering advice to the Government of Vietnam. These restrictions, while they may make our international position more readily defensible, all tend to make the task in Vietnam more complex, time-consuming, and in the end, more costly. In addition to complicating our own problem, these self-imposed restrictions may well now be conveying signals of irresolution to our enemies -- encouraging them to higher levels of vigor and greater risks. A reversal of attitude and the adoption of a more aggressive program would enhance greatly our ability to control the degree to which escalation will occur. It appears probable that the economic and agricultural disappointments suffered by Communist China, plus the current rift with the Soviets, could cause the communists to think twice about undertaking a large-scale military adventure in Southeast Asia.

9. In adverting to actions outside of South Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are aware that the focus of the counterinsurgency battle lies in South Vietnam itself, and that the war must certainly be fought and won primarily in the minds of the Vietnamese people. At the same time, the aid now coming to the Viet Cong from outside the country in men, resources, advice, and direction is sufficiently great in the aggregate to be significant -- both as help and as encouragement to the Viet Congo It is our conviction that if support of the insurgency from outside South Vietnam in terms of operational direction, personnel, and material were stopped completely, the character of the war in South Vietnam would be substantially and favorably altered. Because of this conviction, we are wholly in favor of executing the covert actions against North Vietnam which you have recently proposed to the President. We believe, however, that it would be idle to conclude that these efforts will have a decisive effect on the communist determination to support the insurgency; and it is our view that we must therefore be prepared fully to undertake a much higher level of activity, not only for its beneficial tactical effect, but to make plain our resolution, both to our friends and to our enemies.

10. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the United States must make ready to conduct increasingly bolder actions in Southeast Asia; specifically as to Vietnam to:

a. Assign to the U.S. military commander responsibilities for the total U.S. program in Vietnam.

b. Induce the Government of Vietnam to turn over to the United States military commander, temporarily, the actual tactical direction of the war.

c. Charge the United States military commander with complete responsibility for conduct of the program against North Vietnam.

d. Overfly Laos and Cambodia to whatever extent is necessary for acquisition of operational intelligence.

e. Induce the Government of Vietnam to conduct overt ground operations in Laos of sufficient scope to impede the flow of personnel and material southward.

f. Arm, equip, advise, and support the Government of Vietnam in its conduct of aerial bombing of critical targets in North Vietnam and in mining the sea approaches to that country.

g. Advise and support the Government of Vietnam in its conduct of large-scale commando raids against critical targets in North Vietnam.

h. Conduct aerial bombing of key North Vietnam targets, using U.S. resources under Vietnamese cover, and with the Vietnamese openly assuming responsibility for the actions.

i. Commit additional U.S. forces, as necessary, in support of the combat action within South Vietnam.

j. Commit U.S. forces as necessary in direct actions against North Vietnam.

11. It is our conviction that any or all of the foregoing actions may be required to enhance our position in Southeast Asia. The past few months have disclosed that considerably higher levels of effort are demanded of us if U.S. objectives are to be attained.

12. The governmental reorganization which followed the coup d'etat in Saigon should be completed very soon, giving basis for concluding just how strong the Vietnamese Government is going to be and how much of the load they will be able to bear themselves. Additionally, the five-month dry season, which is just now beginning, will afford the Vietnamese an opportunity to exhibit their ability to reverse the unfavorable situation in the critical Mekong Delta. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will follow these important developments closely and will recommend to you progressively the execution of such of the above actions as are considered militarily required, providing, in each case, their detailed assessment of the risks involved.

13. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the strategic importance of Vietnam and of Southeast Asia warrants preparations for the actions above and recommend that the substance of this memorandum be discussed with the Secretary of State.

#63: '64 McNamara Report on Steps to Change the Trend of the War

Excerpts from memorandum, "South Vietnam," from Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson, March 16, 1964.


We seek an independent non-Communist South Vietnam. We do not require that it serve as a Western base or as a member of a Western Alliance. Vietnam must be free, however, to accept outside assistance as required to maintain its security. This assistance should be able to take the form not only of economic and social pressures but also police and military help to root out and control insurgent elements.

Unless we can achieve this objective in South Vietnam, almost all of Southeast Asia will probably fall under Communist dominance (all of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), accommodate to Communism so as to remove effective U.S. and anti-Communist influence (Burma), or fall under the domination of forces not now explicitly Communist but likely then to become so (Indonesia taking over Malaysia). Thailand might hold for a period with our help, but would be under grave pressure. Even the Philippines would become shaky, and the threat to India to the west, Australia and New Zealand to the south, and Taiwan, Korea, and Japan to the north and east would be greatly increased.

All these consequences would probably have been true even if the U.S. had not since 1954, and especially since 1961, become so heavily engaged in South Vietnam. However, that fact accentuates the impact of a Communist South Vietnam not only in Asia, but in the rest of the world, where the South Vietnam conflict is regarded as a test case of U.S. capacity to help a nation meet a Communist "war of liberation."

Thus, purely in terms of foreign policy, the stakes are high. They are increased by domestic factors.


We are now trying to help South Vietnam defeat the Viet Cong, supported from the North, by means short of the unqualified use of U.S. combat forces. We are not acting against North Vietnam except by a very modest "covert" program operated by South Vietnamese (and a few Chinese Nationalists) -- a program so limited that it is unlikely to have any significant effect. In Laos, we are still working largely within the framework of the 1962 Geneva Accords. In Cambodia we are still seeking to keep Sihanouk from abandoning whatever neutrality he may still have and fulfilling his threat of reaching an accommodation with Hanoi and Peking. As a consequence of these policies, we and the GVN have had to condone the extensive use of Cambodian and Laotian territory by the Viet Cong, both as a sanctuary and as infiltration routes.


The key elements in the present situation are as follows:

A. The military tools and concepts of the GVN-US efforts are generally sound and adequate. Substantially more can be done in the effective employment of military forces and in the economic and civic action areas. These improvements may require some selective increases in the U.S. presence, but it does not appear likely that major equipment replacement and additions in U.S. personnel are indicated under current policy.

B. The U.S. policy of reducing existing personnel where South Vietnamese are in a position to assume the functions is still sound. Its application will not lead to any major reductions in the near future, but adherence to this policy as such has a sound effect in portraying to the U.S. and the world that we continue to regard the war as a conflict the South Vietnamese must win and take ultimate responsibility for. Substantial reductions in the numbers of U.S. military training personnel should be possible before the end of 1965. However, the U.S. should continue to reiterate that it will provide all the assistance and advice required to do the job regardless of how long it takes.

C. The situation has unquestionably been growing worse, at least since September:

1. In terms of government control of the countryside, about 40% of the territory is under Viet Cong control or predominant influence. In 22 of the 43 provinces, the Viet Cong control 50% or more of the land area, including 80% of Phuoc Tuy; 90% of Binh Duong; 75% of Hau Nghia; 90% of Long An; 90% of Kien Tuong; 90% of Dinh Tuong; 90% of Kien Hoa and 85% of An Xuyen.

2. Large groups of the population are now showing signs of apathy and indifference, and there are some signs of frustration within the U.S. contingent. ...

a. The ARVN and paramilitary desertion rates, and particularly the latter, are high and increasing.

b. Draft-dodging is high while the Viet Cong are recruiting energetically and effectively.

c. The morale of the hamlet militia and of the Self Defense Corps, on which the security of the hamlets depends, is poor and failing.

3. In the last 90 days the weakening of the government's position has been particularly noticeable ....

4. The political control structure extending from Saigon down into the hamlets disappeared following the November coup ....

5. North Vietnamese support, always significant, has been increasing ....

D. The greatest weakness in the present situation is the uncertain viability of the Khanh government. Khanh himself is a very able man within his experience, but he does not yet have wide political appeal and his control of the army itself is uncertain ....

E. On the positive side, we have found many reasons for encouragement in the performance of the Khanh Government to date. Although its top layer is thin, it is highly responsive to U.S. advice, and with a good grasp of the basic elements of rooting out the Viet Cong....

2. Retaliatory Actions. For example:

a. Overt high and/or low-level reconnaissance flights by U.S. or Farmgate aircraft over North Vietnam to assist in locating and identifying the sources of external aid to the Viet Cong.

b. Retaliatory bombing strikes and commando raids on a tit-for-tat basis by the GVN against NVN targets (communication centers, training camps, infiltration routes, etc.)

c. Aerial mining by the GVN aircraft (possibly with U.S. assistance) of the major NVN ports.

3. Graduated Overt Military Pressure by GVN and U.S. Forces.

This program would go beyond reacting on a tit-for-tat basis. It would include air attacks against military and possibly industrial targets. The program would utilize the combined resources of the GVN Air Force and the U.S. Farmgate Squadron, with the latter reinforced by three squadrons of B-57s presently in Japan. Before this program could be implemented it would be necessary to provide some additional air defense for South Vietnam and to ready U.S. forces in the Pacific for possible escalation.

The analysis of the more serious of these military actions (from 2 (b) upward) revealed the extremely delicate nature of such operations, both from the military and political standpoints. There would be the problem of marshalling the case to justify such action, the problem of communist escalation, and the problem of dealing with the pressures for premature or "stacked" negotiations. We would have to calculate the effect of such military actions against a specified political objective. That objective, while being cast in terms of eliminating North Vietnamese control and direction of the insurgency, would in practical terms be directed toward collapsing the morale and the self-assurance of the Viet Cong cadres now operating in South Vietnam and bolstering the morale of the Khanh regime. We could not, of course, be sure that our objective could be achieved by any means within the practical range of our options. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, unless and until the Khanh government has established its position and preferably is making significant progress in the South, an overt extension of operations into the North carries the risk of being mounted from an extremely weak base which might at any moment collapse and leave the posture of political confrontation worsened rather than improved.

The other side of the argument is that the young Khanh Government [two words illegible] reinforcement of some significant sources against the North and without [words illegible] the in-country program, even with the expansion discussed in Section [words illegible] may not be sufficient to stem the tide.

[Words illegible] balance, except to the extent suggested in Section V below, I [words illegible] against initiation at this time of overt GVN and/or U.S. military [word illegible] against North Vietnam.

C. Initiate Measures to Improve the Situation in South Vietnam.

There were and are sound reasons for the limits imposed by present policy -- the South Vietnamese must win their own fight; U.S. intervention on a larger scale, and/or GVN actions against the North, would disturb key allies and other nations; etc. In any case, it is vital that we continue to take every reasonable measure to assure success in South Vietnam. The policy choice is not an "either / or" between this course of action and possible pressures against the North; the former is essential without regard to our decision with respect to the latter. The latter can, at best, only reinforce the former.

The following are the actions we believe can be taken in order to improve the situation both in the immediate future and over a longer-term period. To emphasize that a new phase has begun, the measures to be taken by the Khanh government should be described by some term such as "South Vietnam's Program for National Mobilization."

Basic U.S. Posture

1. The U.S. at all levels must continue to make it emphatically clear that we are prepared to furnish assistance and support for as long as it takes to bring the insurgency under control.

2. The U.S. at all levels should continue to make it clear that we fully support the Khanh government and are totally opposed to any further coups. The Ambassador should instruct all elements, including the military advisors, to report intelligence information of possible coups promptly, with the decision to be made by the ambassador whether to report such information to Khanh. However, we must recognize that our chances would not be great of detecting and preventing a coup that had major military backing.

3. We should support fully the Pacification Plan now announced by Khanh (described in Annex B), and particularly the basic theory -- now fully accepted both on the Vietnamese and U.S. sides-of concentrating on the more secure areas and working out from these through military operations to provide security, followed by necessary civil and economic actions to make the presence of the government felt and to provide economic improvements ....


If the Khanh government takes hold vigorously -- inspiring confidence, whether or not noteworthy progress has been made -- or if we get hard information of significantly stepped-up VC arms supply from the North, we may wish to mount new and significant pressures against North Vietnam. We should start preparations for such a capability now. (See Annex C for an analysis of the situation in North Vietnam and Communist China.) Specifically, we should develop a capability to initiate within 72 hours the "Border Control" [ii] and "Retaliatory Actions" referred to on pages 5 and 6, and we should achieve a capability to initiate with 30 days' notice the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure." The reasoning behind this program of preparations for initiating action against North Vietnam is rooted in the fact that, even with progress in the pacification plan, the Vietnamese Government and the population in the South will still have to face the prospect of a very lengthy campaign based on a war-weary nation and operating against Viet Cong cadres who retain a great measure of motivation and assurance.

In this connection, General Khanh stated that his primary concern is to establish a firm base in the South. He favors continuation of covert activities against North Vietnam, but until such time as "rear-area security" has been established, he does not wish to engage in overt operations against the North.

In order to accelerate the realization of pacification and particularly in order to denigrate the morale of the Viet Cong forces, it may be necessary at some time in the future to put demonstrable retaliatory pressure on the North. Such a course of action might proceed according to the scenario outlined in Annex D ....


I recommend that you instruct the appropriate agencies of the U.S. Government:

1. To make it clear that we are prepared to furnish assistance and support to South Vietnam for as long as it takes to bring the insurgency under control.

2. To make it clear that we fully support the Khanh government and are opposed to further coups.

3. To support a Program for National Mobilization (including a national service law) to put South Vietnam on a war footing.

4. To assist the Vietnamese to increase the armed forces (regular plus paramilitary) by at least 50,000 men.

5. To assist the Vietnamese to create a greatly enlarged Civil Administrative Corps for work at province, district and hamlet levels.

6. To assist the Vietnamese to improve and reorganize the paramilitary forces and increase their compensation.

7. To assist the Vietnamese to create an offensive guerrilla force.

8. To provide the Vietnamese Air Force 25 A-1H aircraft in exchange for the present T-28s.

9. To provide the Vietnamese Army additional M-I13 armored personnel carriers (withdrawing the M-114s there), additional river boats, and approximately $5-10 million of other additional material.

10. To announce publicly the Fertilizer Program and to expand it with a view within two years to trebling the amount of fertilizer made available.

11. To authorize continued high-level U.S. overflights of South Vietnam's borders and to authorize "hot pursuit" and South Vietnamese ground operations over the Laotian line for the purpose of border control. More ambitious operations into Laos involving units beyond battalion size should be authorized only with the approval of Souvanna Phouma. Operations across the Cambodian border should depend on the state of relations with Cambodia.

12. To prepare immediately to be in a position on 72 hours' notice to initiate the full range of Laotian and Cambodian "Border Control" actions (beyond those authorized in Paragraph 11 above) and the "Retaliatory Actions" against North Vietnam, and to be in a position on 30 days' notice to initiate the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure" against North Vietnam.

#64: U.S. Order for Preparations for Some Retaliatory Action

[i]Excerpts from National Security Action Memorandum 288, "U.S. Objectives in South Vietnam," March 17, 1964, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. The words in brackets are the study's. The paragraph in italics is the paraphrase by a writer of the study.

[The United States' policy is] to prepare immediately to be in a position on 72 hours' notice to initiate the full range of Laotian and Cambodian "Border Control actions" . . . and the "Retaliatory Actions" against North Vietnam, and to be in a position on 30 days' notice to initiate the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure" against North Vietnam ....

We seek an independent non-Communist South Vietnam. We do not require that it serve as a Western base or as a member of a Western Alliance. South Vietnam must be free, however, to accept outside assistance as required to maintain its security. This assistance should be able to take the form not only of economic and social measures but also police and military help to root out and control insurgent elements.

Unless we can achieve this objective in South Vietnam, almost all of Southeast Asia will probably fall under Communist dominance (all of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), accommodate to Communism so as to remove effective U.S. and anti-Communist influence (Burma), or fall under the domination of forces not now explicitly Communist but likely then to become so (Indonesia taking over Malaysia). Thailand might hold for a period without help, but would be under grave pressure. Even the Philippines would become shaky, and the threat to India on the West, Australia and New Zealand to the South, and Taiwan, Korea, and Japan to the North and East would be greatly increased.

All of these consequences would probably have been true even if the U.S. had not since 1954, and especially since 1961, become so heavily engaged in South Vietnam. However, that fact accentuates the impact of a Communist South Vietnam not only in Asia but in the rest of the world, where the South Vietnam conflict is regarded as a test case of U.S. capacity to help a nation to meet the Communist "war of liberation."

Thus, purely in terms of foreign policy, the stakes are high ....

We are now trying to help South Vietnam defeat the Viet Cong, supported from the North, by means short of the unqualified use of U.S. combat forces. We are not acting against North Vietnam except by a modest "covert" program operated by South Vietnamese (and a few Chinese Nationalists) -- a program so limited that it is unlikely to have any significant effect. ...

There were and are some sound reasons for the limits imposed by the present policy -- the South Vietnamese must win their own fight; U.S. intervention on a larger scale, and/or GVN actions against the North, would disturb key allies and other nations; etc. In any case, it is vital that we continue to take every reasonable measure to assure success in South Vietnam. The policy choice is not an "either/or" between this course of action and possible pressure against the North; the former is essential and without regard to our decision with respect to the latter. The latter can, at best, only reinforce the former ....

Many of the actions described in the succeeding paragraphs fit right into the framework of the [pacification] plan as announced by Khanh. Wherever possible, we should tie our urgings of such actions to Khanh's own formulation of them, so that he will be carrying out a Vietnamese plan and not one imposed by the United States ....

Among the alternatives considered, but rejected for the time being ... were overt military pressure on North Vietnam, neutralization, return of U.S. dependents, furnishing of a U.S. combat unit to secure the Saigon area, and a full takeover of the command in South Vietnam by the U.S. With respect to this last proposal, it was said that

... the judgment of all senior people in Saigon, with which we concur, was that the possible military advantages of such action would be far outweighed by adverse psychological impact. It would cut across the whole basic picture of the Vietnamese winning their own war and lay us wide open to hostile propaganda both within South Vietnam and outside.

#65: Cable from President to Lodge on Escalation Contingencies

Cablegram from President Johnson to Henry Cabot Lodge, United States Ambassador in Saigon, March 20, 1964.

1. We have studied your 1776 and I am asking State to have Bill Bundy make sure that you get out latest planning documents on ways of applying pressure and power against the North. I understand that some of this was discussed with you by Mc- Namara mission in Saigon, but as plans are refined it would be helpful to have your detailed comments. As we agreed in our previous messages to each other, judgment is reserved for the present on overt military action in view of the consensus from Saigon conversations of McNamara mission with General Khanh and you on judgment that movement against the North at the present would be premature. We have [sic] share General Khanh's judgment that the immediate and essential task is to strengthen the southern base. For this reason our planning for action against the North is on a contingency basis at present, and immediate problem in this area is to develop the strongest possible military and political base for possible later action. There is additional international reason for avoiding immediate overt action in that we expect a showdown between the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties soon and action against the North will be more practicable after than before a showdown. But if at any time you feel that more immediate action is urgent, I count on you to let me know specifically the reasons for such action, together with your recommendations for its size and shape.

2. On dealing with de Gaulle, I continue to think it may be valuable for you to go to Paris after Bohlen has made his first try. (State is sending you draft instruction to Bohlen, which I have not yet reviewed, for your comment.) It ought to be possible to explain in Saigon that your mission is precisely for the purpose of knocking down the idea of neutralization wherever it rears its ugly head and on this point I think that nothing is more important than to stop neutralist talk wherever we can by whatever means we can. I have made this point myself to Mansfield and Lippmann and I expect to use every public opportunity to restate our position firmly. You may want to convey our concern on this point to General Khanh and get his ideas on the best possible joint program to stop such talk in Saigon, in Washington, and in Paris. I imagine that you have kept General Khanh abreast of our efforts in Paris. After we see the results of the Bohlen approach you might wish to sound him out on Paris visit by you.

#66: Draft Resolution for Congress on Actions in Southeast Asia

Draft Resolution on Southeast Asia, May 25, 1964, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

Whereas the signatories of the Geneva Accords of 1954, including the Soviet Union, the Communist regime in China, and Viet Nam agreed to respect the independence and territorial integrity of South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia; and the United States, although not a signatory of the Accords, declared that it would view any renewal of aggression in violation of the Accords with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security;

Whereas the Communist regime in North Viet Nam, with the aid and support of the Communist regime in China, has systematically flouted its obligations under these Accords and has engaged in aggression against the independence and territorial integrity of South Viet Nam by carrying out a systematic plan for the subversion of the Government of South Viet Nam, by furnishing direction, training, personnel and arms for the conduct of guerrilla warfare within South Viet Nam, and by the ruthless use of terror against the peaceful population of that country;

Whereas in the face of this Communist aggression and subversion the Government and people of South Viet Nam have bravely undertaken the defense of their independence and territorial integrity, and at the request of that Government the United States has, in accordance with its Declaration of 1954, provided military advice, economic aid and military equipment;

Whereas in the Geneva Agreements of 1962 the United States, the Soviet Union, the Communist regime in China, North Viet Nam and others solemnly undertook to respect the sovereignty, independence, neutrality, unity and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Laos;

Whereas in violation of these undertakings the Communist regime in North Viet Nam, with the aid and support of the Communist regime in China, has engaged in aggression against the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Laos by maintaining forces on Laotian territory, by the use of that territory for the infiltration of arms and equipment into South Viet Nam, and by providing direction, men and equipment for persistent armed attacks against the Government of (words illegible);

Whereas in the face of this Communist aggression the Government of National Unification and the non-Communist elements in Laos have striven to maintain the conditions of unity, independence and neutrality envisioned for their country in the Geneva Agreements of 1962;

Whereas the United States has no territorial, military or political ambitions in Southeast Asia, but desires only that the peoples of South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia should be left in peace by their neighbors to work out their own destinies in their own way, and, therefore, its objective is that the status established for these countries in the Geneva Accords of 1954 and the Geneva Agreements of 1962 should be restored with effective means of enforcement;

Whereas it is essential that the world fully understand that the American people are united in their determination to take all steps that may be necessary to assist the peoples of South Viet Nam and Laos to maintain their independence and political integrity.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:

That the United States regards the preservation of the independence and integrity of the nations of South Viet Nam and Laos as vital to its national interest and to world peace;

Sec. 2. To this end, if the President determines the necessity thereof, the United States is prepared, upon the request of the Government of South Viet Nam or the Government of Laos, to use all measures, including the commitment of armed forces to assist that government in the defense of its independence and territorial integrity against aggression or subversion supported, controlled or directed from any Communist country.

Sec. 3. (a) The President is hereby authorized to use for assistance under this joint resolution not to exceed $ __________ during the fiscal year 1964, and not to exceed $ __________ during the fiscal year 1965, from any appropriations made available for carrying out the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, in accordance with the provisions of that Act, except as otherwise provided in this joint resolution. This authorization is in addition to other existing authorizations with respect to the use of such appropriations.

(b) Obligations incurred in carrying out the provisions of this joint resolution may be paid either out of appropriations for military assistance or appropriations for other than military assistance except that appropriations made available for Titles I, III, and VI of Chapter 2, Part I, of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, shall not be available for payment of such obligations.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, when the President determines it to be important to the security of the United States and in furtherance of the purposes of this joint resolution, he may authorize the use of up to $ __________ of funds available under subsection (a) in each of the fiscal years 1964 and 1965 under the authority of section 614 (a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and is authorized to use up to $ __________ of such funds in each such year pursuant to his certification that it is inadvisable to specify the nature of the use of such funds, which certification shall be deemed to be a sufficient [words illegible].

(d) Upon determination by the head of any agency making personnel available under authority of section 627 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, or otherwise under that Act, for purposes of assistance under this joint resolution, any officer or employee so made available may be provided compensation and allowances at rates other than those provided by the Foreign Service Act of 1946, as amended, the Career Compensation Act of 1949, as amended, and the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of this joint resolution. The President shall prescribe regulations under which such rates of compensation and allowances may be provided. In addition, the President may utilize such provisions of the Foreign Service Act of 1946, as amended, as he deems appropriate to apply to personnel of any agency carrying out functions under this joint resolution.

#67: Cable from Taylor Warning on the "March North" Campaign

Excerpts from cablegram from Ambassador Taylor in Saigon to the State Department, July 25, 1964.

The GVN public campaign for "Marching North" (reported EMBTEL 201) may take several courses. In the face of U.S. coolness and absence of evidence of real grassroots support outside certain military quarters, it may die down for a while although it is hardly likely to disappear completely. On the other hand, the proponents of a "Quick Solution" may be able to keep it alive indefinitely as an active issue, in which case it is likely to foment an increasing amount of dissatisfaction with the U.S. (assuming that we continue to give it no support) to the serious detriment of our working relations with the GVN and hence of the ultimate chances of success of the in-country pacification program. In such a case, Vietnamese leaders in and out of government, unable to find a vent to their frustration in "Marching North" may seek other panaceas in various forms of negotiation formulas. General Khanh may find in the situation an excuse or a requirement to resign.

Finally, this "March North" fever can get out of hand in an act of rashness -- one maverick pilot taking off for Hanoi with a load of bombs -- which could touch off an extension of hostilities at a time and in a form most disadvantageous to U.S. interests. Faced with these unattractive possibilities, we propose a course of action designed to do several things.

We would try to avoid head-on collision with the GVN which unqualified U.S. opposition to the "March North" campaign would entail. We could do this by expressing a willingness to engage in joint contingency planning for various forms of extended action against GVN [sic]. Such planning would not only provide an outlet for the martial head of steam now dangerously compressed but would force the generals to look at the hard facts of life which lie behind the neon lights of the "March North" slogans. This planning would also gain time badly needed to stabilize this government and could provide a useful basis for military action if adjudged in our interest at some future time. Finally, it would also afford U.S. an opportunity, for the first time, to have a frank discussion with GVN leaders concerning the political objectives which they would envisage as the purposes inherent in military action against the DRV ....

It would be important, however, in initiating such a line of action that we make a clear record that we are not repeat not assuming any commitment to supplement such plans ....

#68: U.S. Note to Canada on Points for Envoy to Relay to Hanoi

United States note delivered at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Aug. 8, 1964, for transmission to J. Blair Seaborn, Canadian member of the 1nternational Control Commission.

Canadians are urgently asked to have Seaborn during August 10 visit make following points (as having been conveyed to him by U.S. Government since August 6):

A. Re Tonkin Gulf actions, which almost certainly will come up:

1. The DRV has stated that Hon Ngu and Hon Me islands were attacked on July 30. It should be noted that the USS MADDOX was all of that day and into the afternoon of the next day, over 100 miles south of those islands, in international waters near the 17th parallel, and that the DRV attack on the MADDOX took place on August 2nd, more than two days later. Neither the MADDOX or any other destroyer was in any way associated with any attack on the DRV islands.

2. Regarding the August 4 attack by the DRV on the two U.S. destroyers, the Americans were and are at a complete loss to understand the DRV motive. They had decided to absorb the August 2 attack on the grounds that it very well might have been the result of some DRV mistake or miscalculation. The August 4 attack, however -- from the determined nature of the attack as indicated by the radar, sonar, and eye witness evidence both from the ships and from their protecting aircraft -- was, in the American eyes, obviously deliberate and planned and ordered in advance. In addition, premeditation was shown by the evidence that the DRV craft were waiting in ambush for the destroyers. The attack did not seem to be in response to any action by the South Vietnamese nor did it make sense as a tactic to further any diplomatic objective. Since the attack took place at least 60 miles from nearest land, there could have been no question about territorial waters. About the only reasonable hypothesis was that North Vietnam was intent either upon making it appear that the United States was a "paper tiger" or upon provoking the United States.

3. The American response was directed solely to patrol craft and installations acting in direct support of them. As President Johnson stated: "Our response for the present will be limited and fitting."

4. In view of uncertainty aroused by the deliberate and unprovoked DRV attacks this character, U.S. has necessarily carried out precautionary deployments of additional air power to SVN and Thailand.

B. Re basic American position:

5. Mr. Seaborn should again stress that U.S. policy is simply that North Vietnam should contain itself and its ambitions within the territory allocated to its administration by the 1954 Geneva Agreements. He should stress that U.S. policy in South Vietnam is to preserve the integrity of that state's territory against guerrilla subversion.

6. He should reiterate that the U.S. does not seek military bases in the area and that the U.S. is not seeking to overthrow the Communist regime in Hanoi.

7. He should repeat that the U.S. is fully aware of the degree to which Hanoi controls and directs the guerrilla action in South Vietnam and that the U.S. holds Hanoi directly responsible for that action. He should similarly indicate U.S. awareness of North Vietnamese control over the Pathet Lao movement in Laos and the degree of North Vietnamese involvement in that country. He should specifically indicate U.S. awareness of North Vietnamese violations of Laotian territory along the infiltration route into South Vietnam.

8. Mr. Seaborn can again refer to the many examples of U.S. policy in tolerance of peaceful coexistence with Communist regimes, such as Yugoslavia, Poland, etc. He can hint at the economic and other benefits which have accrued to those countries because their policy of Communism has confirmed itself to the development of their own national territories and has not sought to expand into other areas.

9. Mr. Seaborn should conclude with the following new points:

a. That the events of the past few days should add credibility to the statement made last time, that "U.S. public and official patience with North Vietnamese aggression is growing extremely thin."

b. That the U.S. Congressional Resolution was passed with near unanimity, strongly re-affirming the unity and determination of the U.S. Government and people not only with respect to any further attacks on U.S. military forces but more broadly to continue to oppose firmly, by all necessary means, DRV efforts to subvert and conquer South Vietnam and Laos.

c. That the U.S. has come to the view that the DRV role in South Vietnam and Laos is critical. If the DRV persists in its present course, it can expect to continue to suffer the consequences.

d. That the DRV knows what it must do if the peace is to be restored.

e. That the U.S. has ways and means of measuring the DRV's participation in, and direction and control of, the war on South Vietnam and in Laos and will be carefully watching the DRV's response to what Mr. Seaborn is telling them.

#69: Summary of Taylor's Report Sent to McNamara by Joint Chiefs

Excerpts from Summary of Ambassador Taylor's first mission report from Saigon, on Aug. 10, 1964, as transmitted on Aug. 14 by Col. A. R. Brownfield, acting special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for counterinsurgency and special activities, to Secretary McNamara, through Col. Alfred J. F. Moody, the Secretary's military assistant. Colonel Brownfield's covering memorandum said this summary had also been supplied to Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and to Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance, for their appearance before the House Armed Services Committee on Aug. 18.

... The basis of this report and monthly reports hereafter are the results of a country-wide canvass of responsible U.S. advisors and observers. The canvass dealt with: Army and public morale, combat effectiveness of military units, U.S./GVN counterpart relationships, and effectiveness of GVN officials.

-- In broad terms, the canvass results are surprisingly optimistic at the operational levels of both the civil and military organizations. This feeling of optimism exceeds that of most senior U.S. officials in Saigon. Future reports should determine who is right.



-- The communist strategy as defined by North Vietnam and the puppet National Liberation Front is to seek a political settlement favorable to the communists. This political objective to be achieved by stages, passing first through "neutralism" using the National Liberation Front machinery, and then the technique of a coalition government.


-- The VC tactics are to harass, erode and terrorize the VN population and its leadership into a state of demoralization without an attempt to defeat the RVNAF or seize and conquer terrain by military means. U.S./GVN progress should be measured against this strategy and these tactics.


In terms of equipment and training, the VC are better armed and led today than ever in the past.

-- VC infiltration continues from Laos and Cambodia.

-- No indication that the VC are experiencing any difficulty in replacing their losses in men and equipment.

-- No reason to believe the VC will risk their gains in an overt military confrontation with GVN forces, although they have a sizable force with considerable offensive capability in the central highlands.



-- The slow pace of the CI campaign and the weakness of his government has caused Khanh to use the March North theme to rally the homefront, and offset the war weariness.

-- U.S. observers feel the symptoms of defeatism are more in the minds of the inexperienced and untried leadership in Saigon than in the people and the Army.

-- We may face mounting pressure from the GVN to win the war by direct attack on Hanoi which if resisted will cause local politicians to seriously consider negotiation or local soldiers to consider a military adventure without U.S. consent.

-- For the present, the Khanh government has the necessary military support to stay in power.

-- It is estimated that Khanh has a 50/50 chance of lasting out the year.

-- The government is ineffective, beset by inexperienced ministers who are jealous and suspicious of each other.

-- Khanh does not have confidence or trust in most of his ministers and is not able to form them into a group with a common loyalty and purpose.

-- There is no one in sight to replace Khanh.

-- Khanh has, for the moment, allayed the friction between the Buddhists and Catholics.

-- Khanh has won the cooperation of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai.

-- Khanh has responded to our suggestions for improved relations between GVN and U.S. Mission.

-- The population is confused and apathetic.

-- Khanh has not succeeded in building active popular support in Saigon.

-- Population support in the countryside is directly proportionate to the degree of GVN protection.

-- There are grounds to conclude that no sophisticated psychological approach is necessary to attract the country people to the GVN at this time. The assurance of a reasonably secure life is all that is necessary.

-- The success of U.S. attacks on North Vietnam, although furnishing a psychological lift to the GVN, may have whetted their appetite for further moves against the DRV ....


-- The regular and paramilitary personnel strengths are slowly rising and by January 1965 should reach 98% of the target strength of 446,000.

-- The RVNAF desertion rate has decreased to .572% or lh the rate of last March.

-- Three VNAF squadrons of A-1H aircraft will be combat ready by 30 September 1964 and the fourth by 1 December 1964 with a two to one pilot to cockpit ratio.

-- The evaluation of RVNAF units reports the following number combat effective:

28 of 30 regiments

100 of 101 infantry, marine and airborne battalions

17 of 20 ranger battalions

19 of 20 engineer battalions

-- The principal defects are low present for duty strengths and weak leadership at the lower levels. Both are receiving corrective treatment.

-- Extensive intelligence programs are underway to improve our intelligence capability by the end of the year.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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- -Increase in percentage of population control represents progress toward stabilizing the in-country situation. Using July figures as a base, the following percentages should be attainable.



Do everything possible to bolster the Khanh Government.

Improve the in-country pacification campaign against the VC. Concentrating efforts on strategically important areas such as the provinces around Saigon (The Hop Tac Plan).

Undertake "show-window" social and economic projects in secure urban and rural areas.

Be prepared to implement contingency plans against North Vietnam with optimum readiness by January 1, 1965.

Keep the U.S. public informed of what we are doing and why ....

#70: William Bundy Memo on Actions Available to U.S. after Tonkin

Excerpts from second draft of a memorandum, "Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia," by William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Aug. 11, 1964. A summary was cabled to the Pacific command and the embassies in Saigon and Vientiane on Aug. 14 with requests for comments. According to the Pentagon study, the full draft was edited in the office of Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton. Words that were deleted at that time are shown below in double parentheses; words that were inserted at that time are shown in italics. Boldface type denotes underlining in the original document. Also, according to the McNaughton office's editing, the second paragraph, beginning "We have agreed ... ," was to be moved below, to follow the heading "Phase One -- 'Military Silence' (through August)."


This memorandum examines the courses of action the U.S. might pursue, commencing in about two weeks, assuming that the Communist side does not react further the [sic] the events of last week.

We have agreed that the intervening period will be in effect a short holding phase, in which we would avoid actions that would in any way take the onus off the Communist side for escalation ...


A. South Viet-Nam is still the main theater. Morale and momentum there must be maintained. This means:

1. We must devise means of action that, for minimum risks, get maximum results «for minimum risks)) in terms of morale in SVN and pressure on NVN.

2. We must continue to oppose any Viet-Nam conference, and must play the prospect of a Laos conference very carefully. We must particularly avoid any impression of rushing to a Laos conference, and must show a posture of general firmness into which an eventual Laos conference would fit without serious loss.

3. We particularly need to keep our hands free for at least limited measures against the Laos infiltration areas. . . .

C. Solution. Basically, a solution in both South Viet-Nam and Laos will require a combination of military pressures and some form of communication under which Hanoi (and Peiping) eventually accept the idea of getting out. [iii] Negotiation without continued pressure, indeed without continued military action will not achieve our objectives in the foreseeable future. But military pressure could be accompanied by attempts to communicate with Hanoi and perhaps Peiping -- through third-country channels, through side conversations around a Laos conference of any sort -- provided always that we make it clear both to the Communists and to South Viet-Nam that the pressure will continue until we have achieved our objectives. After, but only after, we have((established a)) know that North Vietnamese are hurting and that the clear pattern of pressure has dispelled suspicions of our motives, we could ((then)) accept a conference broadened to include the Viet-Nam issue. (The UN now looks to be out as a communication forum, though this could conceivably change.)


A. PHASE ONE -- "Military Silence" (through August) (see p. 1)

(A.) B. PHASE TWO -- Limited pressures (September through December)

There are a number of limited actions we could take that would tend to maintain the initiative and the morale of the GVN and Khanh, but that would not involve major risks of escalation. Such actions could be such as to foreshadow stronger measures to come, though they would not in themselves go far to change Hanoi's basic actions.

1. 34A operations could be overtly acknowledged and justified by the GVN. Marine operations could be strongly defended on the basis of continued DRV sea infiltration, and successes could be publicized. Leaflet operations could also be admitted and defended, again on the grounds of meeting DRV efforts in the South, and their impunity (we hope) would tend to have its own morale value in both Vietnams. Air-drop operations are more doubtful; their justification is good and less clear than the other operations, and their successes have been few. With the others admitted, they could be left to speak for themselves -- and of course security would forbid any mention of specific operations before they succeeded.

2. Joint planning [iv] between the US and the GVN already covers possible actions against the DRV and also against the Panhandle. It can be used in itself to maintain the morale of the GVN leadership, as well as to control and inhibit any unilateral GVN moves. With 34A outlined, it could be put right into the same framework. We would not ourselves publicize this planning but it could be leaked (as it probably would anyway) with desirable effects in Hanoi and elsewhere.

3. Stepped-up training of Vietnamese on jet aircraft should now be undertaken in any event in light of the presence of MIG's in North Vietnam. The JCS are preparing a plan, and the existence of training could be publicized both for its morale effect in the GVN and as a signal to Hanoi of possible future action.

4. Cross-border operations into the Panhandle could be conducted on a limited scale. To be successful, ground operations would have to be so large in scale as to be beyond what the GVN can spare, and we should not at this time consider major US or Thai ground action from the Thai side. But on the air side, there are at least a few worthwhile targets in the infiltration areas, and these could be hit by U.S. and/or (([deleted phrase illegible] and by)) GVN air. Probably we should use both (query if U.S. strike should be under a [word illegible] cover) U.S. & GVN; probably we should avoid publicity so as not to embarrass Souvanna; the Communist side might squawk, but in the past they have been silent on this area. The strikes should probably be timed and plotted on the map to bring them to the borders of North Vietnam at the end of December.

5. DESOTO patrols could be reintroduced at some point. Both for present purposes and to maintain the credibility of our account of the events of last week, they must be clearly dissociated from 34A operations both in fact and in physical appearance. [Sentence deleted here is illegible.] In terms of course patterns, we should probably avoid penetrations of 11 miles or so and stay at least 20 miles off; whatever the importance of asserting our view of territorial waters, it is less than the international drawbacks of appearing to provoke attack unduly. [Previous sentence is marked in handwriting "disagree."]

6. Specific tit-for-tat actions could be undertaken for any VC or DRV activity suited to the treatment. [Deleted sentence illegible.] These would be "actions of opportunity." As Saigon 377 points out, the VC have "unused dirty tricks" such as mining (or attacks) in the Saigon River, sabotage of major POL stocks, and terrorist attacks on U.S. dependents. The first two, at least, would lend themselves to prompt and precise reprisal, e.g., by mining the Haiphong channel and attacking the Haiphong POL storage. Terrorism against U.S. dependents would be harder to find the right reprisal target, and reprisal has some disadvantages in that it could be asked why this was different from the regular pattern of terrorism against South Vietnamese. However, we should look at possible [deleted word is illegible] classes of tit-for-tat situations.

7. The sequence and mix of US and GVN actions needs careful thought. At this point, both the GVN role ((and)) in the actions and the rationales directly ((related)) relating the actions to what is being done to the GVN should be emphasized. Overt 34A actions should ((certainly)) be the first moves, and the GVN might go first in air attacks on the Panhandle. But there are advantages in other respects to actions related to U.S. forces. If we lost an aircraft in the Panhandle (( or a U-2 over the DRV)) we could act hard and fast, and of course similarly for any attack on the DESOTO patrols. The loss of a U-2 over NVN does not offer as good a case. Probably the sequence should be played somewhat by ear.

Summary. The above actions are in general limited and controllable. However, if we accept -- as of course we must -- the necessity of prompt retaliation especially for attacks on our own forces, they could amount to at least a pretty high noise level that might stimulate some pressures for a conference. The problem is that these actions are not in themselves a truly coherent program of strong enough pressures either to bring Hanoi around or to sustain a pressure posture into some kind of discussions. Hence, while we might communicate privately to Hanoi while all this was going on, we should continue absolutely opposed to any conference.

((B.)) C. PHASE THREE -- More Serious Pressures. (January 1965 and following).

All the above actions would be foreshadowing systematic military action against the DRV, and we might at some point conclude that such action was required either because of incidents arising from the above actions or because of deterioration in the situation in South Viet-Nam, particularly if there were to be clear evidence of greatly increased infiltration from the north. However, in the absence of such major new developments, we should probably be thinking of a contingency date, as suggested by Ambassador Taylor, of 1 January 1965. Possible categories of action ((are)) beginning at about that time, are:

1. Action against infiltration routes and facilities is probably the best opening gambit. It would follow logically the actions in the Sept.-Dec. Phase Two. It could be justified by evidence that infiltration was continuing and, in all probability, increasing. The family of infiltration-related targets starts with clear military installations near the borders. It can be extended almost at will northward, to inflict progressive damage that would have a meaningful cumulative effect and would always be keyed to one rationale.

2. Action in the DRV against selected military-related targets would appear to be the next upward move. POL installations and the mining of Haiphong Harbor (to prevent POL import as its rationale) would be spectacular actions, as would action against key bridges and railroads. All of these could probably be designed so as to avoid major civilian casualties.

3. Beyond these points it is probably not useful to think at the present time ....

#71: Pacific Commander's Evaluation of Washington's Action Scenario

Excerpts from cablegram from Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, commander of Pacific forces, to Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia," Aug. 17, 1964.

2. Recent U.S. military actions in Laos and North Vietnam demonstrated our intent to move toward our objectives. Our operations and progress in Laos constitute one step along the route. Our directness and rapidity of reaction in bombing North Vietnamese installations and deploying U.S. combat forces to Southeast Asia were others. Each step played a part. Their effect was to interrupt the continually improving Communist posture, catch the imagination of the Southeast Asian peoples, provide some lift to morale, however temporary, and force CHICOM/DRV assessment or reassessment of U.S. intentions. But these were only steps along the way. What we have not done and must do is make plain to Hanoi and Peiping the cost of pursuing their current objectives and impeding ours. An essential element of our military action in this course is to proceed in the development of our physical readiness posture: deploying troops, ships, aircraft, and logistic resources in a manner which accords a maximum freedom of action. This is the thrust we should continue to pursue, one which is intended to provide more than one feasible course for consideration as the changed and changing Southeast Asian situation develops. Remarks in the paragraphs which follow are submitted in light of this assessment and with the view that pressures against the other side once instituted should not be relaxed by any actions or lack of them which would destroy the benefits of the rewarding steps previously taken in Laos and North Vietnam ....

3. Para I.

The proposed two weeks suspension of operations is not in consonance with desire to get the message to Hanoi and Peiping. Pierce Arrow showed both force and restraint. Further demonstration of restraint alone could easily be interpreted as period of second thoughts about Pierce Arrow and events leading thereto as well as sign of weakness and lack of resolve. Continuous and effective pressure should be implied to the Communists in both the POI and panhandle. Consequently, concur in continued RECCE of DRV, panhandle and POI. Concur in attempt to secure Phou Kout and continued T-28 and Triangle operations. Resumption of 34A actions and Desoto Patrols is considered appropriate. Each can be carefully conducted to avoid interference with the other ....

7. Para III A 1

Concur that South Vietnam is current hot spot and main concern in S.E. Asia. RVN cannot be reviewed apart from S.E. Asia. It is merely an area in a large theater occupied by the same enemy. Action to produce significant results in terms of pressure on DRV and improvements of morale in RVN must entail risk. Temptation toward zero action and zero risk must be avoided ....

11. Para III C

Concur with the thesis set forth that we make clear to all that military pressure will continue until we achieve our objectives. Our actions must keep the Communists apprehensive of what further steps we will take if they continue their aggression. In this regard, we have already taken the large initial step of putting U.S. combat forces into Southeast Asia. We must maintain this posture; to reduce it would have a dangerous impact on the morale and will of all people in Southeast Asia. And we must face up to the fact that these forces will be deployed for some time and to their need for protection from ground or air attack. RVN cannot provide necessary ground security without degraduation of the counterinsurgency effort and has little air defense capability. A conference to include Vietnam, before we have overcome the insurgency, would lose U.S. our allies in Southeast Asia and represent a defeat for the United States.

12. Para IV A 1

Knowledge of success of 34A operations would have a highly beneficial effect morale in the RVN. Suggest that these operations might be leaked to the press rather than overtly acknowledging them. 34A operations should be resumed to keep up external pressure on the DRV ....

20. In considering more serious pressure, we must recognize that immediate action is required to protect our present heavy military investment in RVN. We have introduced large amounts of expensive equipment into RVN and a successful attack against Bien Hoa, Tan Son Nhut, Danang, or an installation such as a radar or communication site would be a serious psychological defeat for U.S. MACV reports that inability of GVN to provide requisite degree of security and therefore we must rely on U.S. troops. MACV has requested troops for defense of the three locations mentioned above. My comments on this request are being transmitted by separate message. In addition to the above, consideration should be given to creating a U.S. base in RVN. A U.S. base in RVN would provide one more indication of our intent to remain in S.E. Asia until our objectives are achieved. It could also serve as a U.S. command point or control center in event of the chaos which might follow another coup. By an acknowledged concrete U.S. (as received) commitment, beyond the advisory effort, it informs the Communists that an overt attack on the RVN would be regarded as a threat to U.S. forces. Such a base should be accessible by air and sea, possessed of well developed facilities and installations, and located in an area from which U.S. operations could be launched effectively. Danang meets these criteria ....

22. In conclusion, our actions of August 5 have created a momentum which can lead to the attainment of our objectives in S.E. Asia. We have declared ourselves forcefully both by overt acts and by the clear readiness to do more. It is most important that we not lose this momentum.

#72: Memo from the Joint Chiefs on September's Covert Raids

Memorandum from Maj. Gen. Rollen H. Anthis, an Air Force aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Assistant Secretary of State Bundy and Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton, Aug. 27, 1964. The subject of the memorandum was given as "OPLAN 34A-September Schedule."

1. Attached hereto is COMUSMACV'S proposed schedule of 34A actions for September.

2. All of the actions listed have either been specifically approved previously or are similar to such approved actions. For example, Action (3) (d) was specifically approved by consideration of JCSM-426-64 dated 19 May 1964, while Action (3) (b) is similar to a previously approved action against a security post.

3. The method of attack has been changed in some instances from destruction by infiltration of demolition teams to the concept of standoff bombardment from PTFs. These actions are so indicated in the attachment.

The proposed September 34A actions are as follows:

(1) Intelligence Collection Action

(a) 1-30 September -- Aerial photography to update selected targets along with pre- and post-strike coverage of approved actions.

(b) 1-30 September -- Two junk capture missions; remove captives for 36-48 hours interrogation; booby trap junk with antidisturbance devices and release; captives returned after interrogation; timing depends upon sea conditions and current intelligence.

(2) Psychological Operations

(a) 1-30 September -- In conjunction with approved overflights and maritime operations, delivery of propaganda leaflets, gift kits, and deception devices simulating resupply of phantom teams.

(b) 1-30 September -- Approximately 200 letters of various propaganda themes sent through third country mail channels to North Vietnam.

(c) 1-30 September -- Black Radio daily 30-minute programs repeated once, purports to be voice of dissident elements in North Vietnam.

(d) 1-30 September -- White Radio broadcast of eight-and-one-half hours daily, propaganda "Voice of Freedom."

(3) Maritime Operations

(a) 1-30 September -- Demolition of Route 1 bridge by infiltrated team accompanied by fire support teams, place short-delay charges against spans and caissons, place antipersonnel mines on road approaches. (This bridge previously hit but now repaired).

(b) 1-30 September -- Bombard Cape Mui Dao observation post with 81 MM mortars and 40 MM guns from two PTFs.

(c) 1-30 September -- Demolition of another Route 1 bridge (see map), concept same as (3) (a) above.

(d) 1-30 September -- Bombard Sam Son radar, same as (3) (b).

(e) 1-30 September -- Bombard Tiger Island barracks, same as (3) (b).

(f) 1-30 September -- Bombard Hon Ngu Island, same as (3) (b).

(g) 1-30 September -- Bombard Hon Matt Island, same as (3) (b) and run concurrently with (3) (f).

(h) 1-30 September -- Destruction of section of Hanoi-Vinh railroad by infiltrated demolition team supported by two VN marine squads, by rubber boats from PTFs, place short-delay charges and antipersonnel mines around area.

(i) 1-30 September -- Bombard Hon Me Island in conjunction with (3) (a) above, concept same as (3) (b).

(j) 1-30 September -- Bombard Cape Falaise gun positions in conjunction with (3) (h) above, concept same as (3) (b).

(k) 1-30 September -- Bombard Cape Mui Ron in conjunction with junk capture mission, concept same as (3) (b).

(4) Airborne Operations -- Light-of-moon period 16-28 September

(a) Four missions for resupply of in-place teams.

(b) Four missions for reinforcement of in-place teams.

(c) Four missions to airdrop new psyops/sabotage teams depending upon development of drop zone and target information. These are low-key propaganda and intelligence gathering teams with a capability for small-scale sabotage on order after locating suitable targets.

(5) Dates for actual launch of maritime and airborne operations are contingent upon the intelligence situation and weather conditions.

#73: State Department Aide's Report on Actions Taken after Tonkin

Part VIII, "Immediate Actions in the Period Prior to Decision," of an outline for Assistant Secretary Bundy, Nov. 7, 1964. Markings indicate that it was drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green.

The U.S., together with the RLG and GVN, are involved in a number of operations -- 34-A, Yankee Team, Reece, and RLAF T-28 ops -- designed to warn and harass North Vietnam and to reduce enemy capabilities to utilize the Lao Panhandle for reinforcing the Vietcong in South Vietnam and to cope with PL/VM pressures in Laos. The U.S. also has under consideration De Soto Patrols and Cross Border Ground Operations. The present status and outlook of these operations are described below, together with a checklist of outstanding problems relating to each of the field of operations.

In general the working group is agreed that our aim should be to maintain present signal strength and level of harassment, showing no signs of lessening of determination but also avoiding actions that would tend to prejudge the basic decision.


Although not all of Oplan 34-A was suspended after the first Tonkin Gulf incident, in effect little was accomplished during the remainder of August and the months of September. Several successful maritime and airborne operations have been conducted under the October schedule. A schedule for November is under discussion and will probably be approved November 7.

1. Maritime Operations

Since the resumption of Marops under the October schedule, the following have been completed:

Recon L Day (Oct. 4) Probe to 12 miles of Vinh Sor.

Recon L + 2 (Oct. 10) Probe to 12 miles of Vinh Sor.

Loki IV L + 5 Junk capture failed

32 & 45 E L 8 (Oct. 28/29) Bombard Vin Son radar and Mui Dai observation post.

The following operation was refused approval:

44c L + 10 Demolition by frog men supported by fire team of bridge on Route 1.

Currently approved is:

34B L + 12 (Nov. 4, on) Bombardment of barracks on Hon Matt and Tiger Island.

The following maritime operations remain on the October schedule and presumably will appear on the November schedule along with some additional similar operations:

L + 13 Capture of prisoner by team from PTF

L + 15 Junk capture

L + 19 Bombard Cap Mui Ron and Tiger Island

L + 25 Bombard Yen Phu and Sam Son radar

L + 28 Blow up Bridge Route 1 and bombard Cap Mui Dao

L + 30 Return any captives from L + 1 15

L + 31 Bombard Hon Ne and Hon Me

L + 36 Blow up pier at Phuc Loi and bombard Hon Ngu

L + 38 Cut Hanoi-Vinh rail line

L + 41 Bombard Dong Hoi and Tiger Island

L + 24 Bombard Nightingale Island.

2. Airborne Operations

Five teams and one singleton agent were in place at the beginning of October. Since then one of the teams has been resupplied and reinforced. The remaining four were scheduled to be resupplied and reinforced but weather prevented flights. These operations, plus the dropping of an additional team, will appear on the November schedule.

Two of the teams carried out successful actions during October. One demolished a bridge, the other ambushed a North Vietnamese patrol. Both teams suffered casualties, the latter sufficient to cast doubt on the wisdom of the action.

3. Psychological Operations

Both black and white radio broadcasts have been made daily. Black broadcasts have averaged eight to ten hours weekly, white broadcasts sixty hours weekly.

Letters posted through Hong Kong have averaged about from 50 to 100 weekly.

During September and October only one leaflet delivery was made by air. This was done in conjunction with a resupply mission.

The November schedule will call for a large number of leaflet and deception operations.

4. Reconnaissance Flights

An average of four flights per week have covered the bulk of Oplan 34-A targets.


1. Surfacing of Marops -- The question of whether to surface Marops remains unresolved. While Washington has suggested this be done, General Khanh has been reluctant to do so. It is argued that surfacing the operations would enable the U.S. to offer some protection to them; the counterargument postulates U.S. involvement in North Vietnam and consequent escalation.

2. Security of Operations -- The postponement of an operation, whether because of unfavorable wealth or failure of Washington to approve at the last moment, jeopardizes the operation. Isolation of teams presents hazards.

3. Base Security -- After the Bien Hoa shelling some attention has been given to the security of the Danang base. Perimeter guard has been strengthened, but action remains to be taken for marine security, although a survey is underway.

4. Team welfare -- In-place teams Bell and Easy have been in dire need of supplies for several weeks. Weather has prevented resupply, which will be attempted again during the November moon phase.

5. NVN Counteraction -- The capability of the North Vietnamese against Marops has improved somewhat, although not yet sufficiently to frustrate these operations.


For several months now the pattern of Yankee Team Operations has [words illegible] a two-week period and about ten flights during the same time interval [words illegible] for Panhandle coverage. Additionally, we have recently been authorized a maximum of two shallow penetration flights daily to give comprehensive detailed coverage of cross border penetration. We have also recently told MACV that we have a high priority requirement for night photo recce of key motor able routes in Laos. At present about 2 nights recce flights are flown along Route 7 areas within a two-week span.

YT supplies cap for certain T-28 corridor strikes. Cap aircraft are not authorized to participate in strike or to provide suppressive fire.

Pending questions include: (a) whether YT strikes should be made in support of RLAF T-28 corridor operations; (b) whether YT recce should be made of areas north of 20° parallel; (c) YT suppressive attacks against Route 7, especially Ban Ken Bridge; and (d) YT activity in event of large-scale ground offensive by PL (this issue has not arisen but undoubtedly would, should the PL undertake an offensive beyond the capabilities of Lao and sheep-dipped Thai to handle).


There are now 27 T-28 (including three RT-28) aircraft in Laos, of which 22 are in operation. CINCPAC has taken action, in response to Ambassador Unger's request to build this inventory back up to 40 aircraft for which a pilot capability, including Thai, is present in Laos.

The T-28's are conducting the following operations:

1. General harassing activities against Pathet Lao military installations and movement, primarily in Xieng Khouang and Sam Neua Provinces. This also includes efforts to interdict Route 7.

2. Tactical support missions for Operation Anniversary Victory No. 2 (Saleumsay), the FAR-Meo clearing operation up Route 4 and north of Tha Thorn.

3. Tactical support for Operation Victorious Arrow (Sone Sai), a FAR clearing operations in southern Laos.

4. Strikes on targets of opportunity, including in support of FAR defensive actions such as at Ban Khen northwest Thakhek.

5. Corridor interdiction program. The original targets under this program have been hit and plans are now underway to hit four additional targets (including in the Tchepone area), plus restriking some of the original 13 targets. Ambassador Unger has submitted for approval under this program 6 additional targets.

6. The Ambassador has been authorized to discuss with the RLAF RT-28 reconnaissance in northwest Laos along the area just north of and to the east and west of the line from Veng Phou Kha-Muong Sai.

In recent weeks, the T-28's have been dropping a large number of surrender leaflets on many of their missions. These have already led, in some cases, to PL defections.

U.S. participation in SAR operations for downed T-28's, is authorized.

We are faced by the following problems in connection with the T-28's:

1. Authority for Yankee Team aircraft to engage in suppressive strikes in the corridor area, in support of the T-28 strike program there, has not been given as yet.

2. Also withheld is authorization for YT suppressive fire attack on Ban Ken Bridge on Route 7.

3. We are investigating reports of greatly increased truck movement along Route 7 as well as enemy build-up of tanks and other equipment just across the border in NVN. Counteraction may be required involving attack on Ban Ken.

4. Thai involvement. Hanoi claims to have shot down a T-28 over DRV territory on August 18 and to have captured the Thai pilot flying the plane. Although the information the North Vietnamese have used in connection with this case seems to be accurate, it is not clear the pilot is alive and can be presented to the ICC. The possibility cannot be excluded, however, nor that other Thai pilots might be captured by the PL.

5. The DRV claims T-28's have violated North Vietnamese airspace and bombed/strafed NVN villages on August 1 and 2, and on October 16 and 17 and again on October 28. The charges are probably accurate with respect to the first two dates (along Route 7) and the last one (Mu Gia Pass area). The October 16 and 17 strikes were actually in disputed territory which was recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements as being in Laos.

6. The Pathet Lao has called to the attention of the ICC T-28 strikes in the corridor area and called for the ICC to stop them and inform the Co-Chairmen. The ICC has already agreed to investigate another PL charge concerning alleged U.S./SVN activities in the corridor area in violation of the Geneva Agreements.


Further DeSoto Patrols have been held in abeyance pending toplevel decision. Ambassador Taylor (Saigon's 1378) sees no advantage in resuming DeSoto Patrols except for essential intelligence purposes. He believes we should tie our actions to Hanoi's support of Viet Cong, not to the defense of purely U.S. interests.


Earlier in the year several eight-man reconnaissance teams were parachuted into Laos as part of Operation Leaping Lena. All of these teams were located by the enemy and only four survivors returned to RVN. As a result of Leaping Lena, Cross Border Ground Operations have been carefully reviewed and COMUSMACV has stated that he believes no effective Cross Border Ground Operations can be implemented prior to January 1, 1965 at the earliest.


Consideration is being given to improving Hardnose (including greater Thai involvement) and getting Hardnose to operate more effectively in the corridor infiltration areas.

No change in status of Kha.


These include "Queen Bee," "Box Top," "Lucky Dragon" and "Blue Springs."

Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara, key men in Kennedy and Johnson cabinets (The New York Times).

Barry Goldwater campaigning for the Presidency in 1964. He was an advocate of full-scale air attacks on North Vietnam (Sam Vestal - Pix).

Gen. Maxwell Taylor and Gen. Nguyen Khanh, who seized power early in 1964. With them is Gen. William Westmoreland. (Nguen van Duc -- Pix).

Khanh wanted to invade North Vietnam. McNamara discouraged the idea but said the U.S. would not rule out bombing. (Terence Khoo -- PIX)

Taylor, Rusk, McNamara, McCone and Johnson. McCone dissented on sending U.S. ground troops to South Vietnam (The New York Times).

Adm. Harry Felt, whose headquarters made plans for retaliatory bombing of the North long before Tonkin clash.

Walt Rostow and McGeorge Bundy considered the options.

William Bundy wrote 30-day scenario to culminate in bombing (The New York Times).

Photograph taken from the destroyer Maddox shows attack by North Vietnamese PT boat in Gulf of Tonkin, Aug. 2, 1964 (Wide World).

On Aug. 4, 1964, President Johnson announced the Tonkin Gulf clashes and called for special powers to fight aggression. (UPI)

Days later he signed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Behind him are Everett Dirksen, John McCormack and J.W. Fulbright (Pictorial Parade).

On Aug. 5, McNamara told newsmen of raids on the North in reprisal for Tonkin attacks (Pictorial Parade).

Souvanna Phouma of Laos was urged to hit enemy trails from North Vietnam (UPI).

John McNaughton outlined aims and analyzed plans of action against the North (Wide World).



[i] Mr. McCone emphasizes that the GVN/US program can never be considered completely satisfactory so long as it permits the Viet Cong a sanctuary in Cambodia and a continuing uninterrupted and unmolested source of supply and reinforcement from NVN through Laos.

ii. Authority should be granted immediately for covert Vietnamese operations into Laos, for the purposes of border control and of "hot pursuit" into Laos. Decision on "hot pursuit" into Cambodia should await further study of our relations with that country.

iii. We have never defined precisely what we mean by "getting out" -- what actions, what proofs, and what future guarantees we would accept. A small group should work on this over the next month. The actions we want the DRV to take are probably these:

(a) Stop training and sending personnel to wage war in SVN and Laos.

(b) Stop sending arms and supplies to SVN and Laos.

(c) Stop directing and controlling military actions in SVN and Laos.

(d) Order the VC and PL to stop their insurgencies and military actions.

(e) Remove VM forces and cadres from SVN and Laos.

(f) See that VC and PL stop attacks and incidents in SVN and Laos.

(g) See that VC and PL cease resistance to government forces.

(h) See that VC and PL turn in weapons and relinquish bases.

(i) See that VC and PL surrender for amnesty or expatriation.

iv. This is in Phase One also.
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