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.

The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:03 am

The Pentagon history was obtained by Neil Sheehan. Written by Neil Sheehan, Hedrick Smith, E.W. Kenworthy and Fox Butterfield
© 1971 by The New York Times Company
No copyright is claimed in official Government documents contained in this volume
Photographs in the book were researched by The New York Times and are not an integral part of the Pentagon Papers nor were they included in the official Government documents.




Table of Contents:

• Inside Cover
• Introduction by Neil Sheehan
• Chapter 1: The Truman and Eisenhower Years: 1945-1960, by Fox Butterfield
• Chapter 2: Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, by Fox Butterfield
• Chapter 3: The Kennedy Years: 1961-1963, by Hedrick Smith
• Chapter 4: The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem: May-November, 1963, by Hedrick Smith
• Chapter 5: The Covert War and Tonkin Gulf: February-August, 1964, by Neil Sheehan
• Chapter 6: The Consensus to Bomb North Vietnam: August, 1964-February, 1965, by Neil Sheehan
• Chapter 7: The Launching of the Ground War: March-July, 1965, by Neil Sheehan
• Chapter 8: The Buildup: July, 1965-September, 1966, by Fox Butterfield
• Chapter 9: Secretary McNamara's Disenchantment: October, 1966-May, 1967, by Hedrick Smith
• Chapter 10: The Tet Offensive and the Turnaround, by E. W. Kenworthy
• Appendix 1: Analysis and Comment
o The Lessons of Vietnam by Max Frankel
o Editorials from The New York Times
• Appendix 2: Court Records
o Summary of Court Proceedings
o U.S. v. New York Times Company, et al
 Decision of U.S. District Court
 Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals
o U.S. v. The Washington Post Company, et al
 Decision of U.S. District Court
 Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals
 Decision of U.S. District Court
 Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals
o Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court
o Supreme Court of the United States, Decision and Opinions
• Appendix 3 Biographies of Key Figures
• Index of Key Documents
• Glossary
• Index
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:05 am

Washington D.C., 1965: President Johnson, Secretary Rusk, Presidential Assistant Bundy, Secretary McNamara.

This is the definitive edition of the Pentagon Papers as published by The New York Times in its issues of June 13, 14 and 15, 1971 -- interrupted by a temporary restraining order and 15 days of litigation culminating in the Supreme Court decision of June 30 -- and concluded in the issues of July 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

To provide a comprehensive archive for libraries, universities and private citizens, additional background materials have been provided relating to the writing of the Papers, their place in the history of American policy since 1945, and the constitutional issues raised by their publication in The Times.

In one volume of nearly nine hundred pages, this permanent edition contains:

The complete New York Times report on the secret Pentagon study of American participation in the Vietnam war, including the full texts of the controversial government documents that appeared in the historic Times articles:

Chapter 1: The Truman and Eisenhower Years (1945-1960) by Fox Butterfield, with 15 key documents.

Chapter 2: Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, by Fox Butterfield.

Chapter 3: The Kennedy Years (1961-1963), by Hedrick Smith, with 17 key documents.

Chapter 4: The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem (May-November, 1963) by Hedrick Smith, with 26 key documents.

Chapter 5: The Covert War and Tonkin Gulf (February-August, 1964) by Neil Sheehan, with 12 key documents.

Chapter 6: The Consensus to Bomb North Vietnam (August, 1964-February, 1965) by Neil Sheehan, with 16 key documents.

Chapter 7: The Launching of the Ground War (March-July, 1965), by Neil Sheehan, with 15 key documents.

Chapter 8: The Buildup (July, 1965-September, 1966) by Fox Butterfield, with 11 key documents.

Chapter 9: Secretary McNamara's Disenchantment (October, 1966-May, 1967) by Hedrick Smith, with 12 key documents.

Chapter 10: The Tet Offensive and the Turnaround by E. W.Kenworthy, with 4 key documents.

From the court proceedings in the case of The New York Times Company vs. The Untied States:

The decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Justice Gurfein.

The decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Justice Gesell.

Transcripts of oral arguments by lawyers for the Justice Department and the defendants before the United States Supreme Court.

The decision of the United States Supreme Court on June 30, accompanied by the six concurring opinions and the two dissenting opinions, and including the illuminating footnotes provided by the Justices themselves.

Also included:

Pictorial documentation of the Pentagon study in 60 pages of photographs.

A glossary of names, code words, abbreviations and technical terms used in the Pentagon study.

Expanded, illustrated biographies of American and Vietnamese officials prominent in the study.

A 32-page index to the Pentagon documents and The Times articles.

Commentary and editorials from The New York Times including a news-analysis by Max Frankel, head of The Times Washington Bureau ... and a history of the Pentagon Papers (examining the conclusions reached by their authors in the Pentagon, and the choices considered by The Times in deciding how to report them) by Neil Sheehan.



Image Image


1946: French colonial rule, interrupted by World War II, is re-established in Indochina. War with Vietminh begins.

150: U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group is et up in Saigon. France grants Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia independence within French Union. U.S. signs mutual defense assistance pact with France and Indochinese states.

1952: U.S. aid is supplying about a third of French war costs.

1954: France declares Vietnam independent. French defeat at Dienbienphu ends war. Geneva accords "temporarily" divide Vietnam at 17th parallel, call for unification in 1956 election. Southeast Asia Treat Organization is formed. Eisenhower letter to Premier Ngo Dinh Diem signals direct U.S. assistance to South Vietnam.

1955: U.S. takes over training of Saigon's forces. French depart. Diem becomes President, rejects unification election.

1959: Hanoi takes control of growing insurgency in South. Bomb kills two U.S. advisers -- first U.S. dead in Vietnam war.

1960: National Liberation Front, political arm of Vietcong, is formed. U.S. military presence in Vietnam reaches 900.

1961: Diem is re-elected. President Kennedy sharply increases number of advisers as military situation deteriorates. U.S. force total in South Vietnam jumps to 3,200.


1962: U.S. sets up Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Geneva conference on Laos produces declaration of neutrality. U.S. force in South Vietnam is increased to 11,300 men.

1963: U.S. presses Diem to reform autocratic regime. Gen. Duong Van Minh leads overthrow; Diem and brother are slain. U.S. military strength in South rises to 16,500.

1964: Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh seizes power. As Vietcong strength rises, covert operations against North begin. U.S. warships in Tonkin Gulf report being attacked. President Johnson obtains Congressional resolution backing "all necessary steps." Bombing of Laos infiltration routes begins. Tran Van Huong forms civilian regime. U.S. strength at 23,300.

1965: Khanh ousts Huong. Vietcong attack U.S. barracks at Pleiku and Quinhon. Sustained air war on North begins. Phan Huy Quat heads civilian regime. North Vietnamese leaders and Kosygin, then in Hanoi, issue four-point plan for talks, call for withdrawal. Nguyen Cao Ky becomes Premier, Nguyen Van Thieu Chief of State. U.S. troops begin combat role as South seems near collapse. U.S. strength jumps to 180,000.

1966: Johnson promises withdrawal schedule when Hanoi gives one. Doubts about war grow in Washington. U.S. force at 389,000.

1967: Thieu wins Presidential election. U.S. commitment at 475,000.

1968: Communists' Tet offensive hits major cities in South. Johnson halts bombing of North above 20th parallel March 31 and says he won't run again. Preliminary talks begin in Paris May 13.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:06 am


For most of the past 20 years, directly or by proxy, the United States has been waging war in Indochina. Forty-five thousand Americans have died in the fighting, 95,000 men of various nationalities in the former French colonial army, and no one knows how many Indochinese -- the guesses run from one to two million. Only a very small number of men have known the inner story of how and why four succeeding Administrations, those of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, helped to maintain this semipermanent war in Indochina -- a conflict that the Administration of President Nixon has continued.

On June 17, 1967, at a time of great personal disenchantment with the war, Robert S. McNamara, who was then Secretary of Defense, made what may turn out to be one of the most important decisions in his seven years at the Pentagon. He commissioned what has since become known as the Pentagon papers -- a massive top-secret history of the United States role in Indochina. The work took a year and a half. The result was approximately 3,000 pages of narrative history and more than 4,000 pages of appended documents -- an estimated total of 2.5 million words. The 47 volumes cover American involvement in Indochina from World War II to May, 1968, the month the peace talks began in Paris after President Johnson had set a limit on further military commitments and revealed his intention to retire.

The New York Times obtained most of the narrative history and documents and began publishing a series of articles based on them on Sunday, June 13, 1971. After the first three daily installments appeared, the Justice Department obtained a temporary restraining order against further publication from the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Government contended that if public dissemination of the history continued, "the national defense interests of the United States and the nation's security will suffer immediate and irreparable harm," and sought a permanent injunction. The issue was fought through the courts for 15 days, as The Times and The Washington Post, which had subsequently begun publishing articles on the history, along with other newspapers, argued that the Pentagon papers belonged in the public domain and that no danger to the nation's security was involved.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court of the United States freed the newspapers to continue publication of their articles. By a vote of 6 to 3, the justices held that the right to a free press under the First Amendment to the Constitution overrode any subsidiary legal considerations that would block publication by the news media.

The Pentagon papers, despite shortcomings and gaps, form a great archive of government decision-making on Indochina over three decades. The papers tell what decisions were made, how and why they were made and who made them. The story is told in the written words of the principal actors themselves -- in their memorandums, their cablegrams and their orders -- and in narrative-analyses of these documents written by the 36 authors of the history.

The authors, who functioned as anonymous government historians, aimed at the broadest possible interpretation of events. They examined not only the policies and motives of the successive Administrations concerned, but also the effect or lack of effect of intelligence analyses on policy; the mechanics and consequences of bureaucratic compromises; the dilemmas of seeking to impose American concepts on the Vietnamese; the techniques of the Executive Branch of government in influencing Congress, the news media and domestic and international opinion in general, and many other tributaries of the main historical narrative.

The narrative-analyses bear the character of a middle-echelon and institutional view of the war, for the majority of the authors were careerists, experienced State and Defense Department civilian officials and military officers, as well as defense-oriented intellectuals from government-financed research institutes. The director of the project for Mr. McNamara was Leslie H. Gelb, 30 years old at the time the history was commissioned, a Harvard Ph.D. in political science and a former head of policy planning in the Pentagon's office of politico-military operations -- International Security Affairs. The authors were promised anonymity when they were recruited for the project so that they would be free to make judgments in the course of their writing. The anonymity was designed to protect their careers if the judgments later displeased higher authority.

The anonymous character of the study, officially entitled "History of U.S. Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy," was also preserved by having several authors collaborate on each of the various chronological and thematic sections. The process gave the history a fragmented character and it does not reflect consistent themes throughout, as would a history written by one author or a group of authors who shared a similar overview of events. For example, the history lacks a single, all-embracing summary and it displays a number of other inconsistencies.

The result was an extended internal critique of the appended documentary record -- what Mr. Gelb, in a letter on Jan. 15, 1969, to Mr. McNamara's successor, Clark M. Clifford, called "not so much a documentary history as a history based solely on documents -- checked and rechecked with ant-like diligence."

To preserve the secrecy of the project, the historians were forbidden to supplement the documentary record by interviewing the decision-makers themselves. And even where the documentary record was concerned, the authors could not bridge important gaps. They did not have access to the White House archives of President Johnson and to those of past Presidents, nor to the full files of the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, although the authors did have many documents from all of these sources.

The historians relied for the documentary record on files of Mr. McNamara and Mr. Clifford, the official archives of past Defense Secretaries and those of other senior officials in the Pentagon. Into these Pentagon files had in turn flowed papers from the White House, the State Department, the C.I.A. and the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. William Bundy, the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in the Johnson Administration, also made available documents from his official files.

The copy of the Pentagon papers obtained by The New York Times lacks, however, the four volumes the historians wrote on the secret diplomatic negotiations of the Johnson period. What discussion of Vietnam diplomacy since 1963 is contained in the relevant chapters of this book, therefore, has been based on the sporadic, but significant insights the other volumes of the Pentagon papers provide.

The historians themselves also found no conclusive answers to some of the most widely asked questions about the war, including these:

Precisely how was Ngo Dinh Diem returned to South Vietnam in 1954 from exile and helped to power?
• Who took the lead in preventing the 1956 Vietnam-wide elections provided for in the Geneva accords of 1954-Mr. Diem or the Americans?
• If President Kennedy had lived, would he have led the United States into a full-scale ground war in South Vietnam and an air war against North Vietnam as President Johnson did?
• Was Secretary of Defense McNamara dismissed for opposing the Johnson strategy in mid-1967 or did he ask to be relieved because of disenchantment with Administration policy?
• Did President Johnson's cutback of the bombing to the 20th Parallel on March 31, 1968, signal a lowering of United States objectives for the war or was it merely an effort to buy more time and patience from a war-weary American public?
But whatever their drawbacks, the Pentagon papers are the most complete secret archive of government decision-making on Indochina that has yet become available. Taken as a whole, the papers demonstrate that the four Administrations of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson progressively developed a sense of commitment to a non-Communist Vietnam, a readiness to fight the North to protect the South, and an ultimate frustration with this effort-to a much greater extent than their public statements acknowledged at the time. The historians were led to many broad conclusions and specific findings, including the following:
• That the Truman Administration's decision to give military aid to France in her colonial war against the Communist-led Vietminh "directly involved" the United States in Vietnam and "set" the course of American policy.
• That the Eisenhower Administration's decision to rescue a fledgling South Vietnam from a Communist takeover and the Administration's attempt to undermine the new Communist regime of North Vietnam gave the Administration a "direct role in the ultimate breakdown of the Geneva settlement" for Indochina in 1954.
• That the Kennedy Administration, though ultimately spared from major escalation decisions by the death of its leader, transformed a policy of "limited-risk gamble," which it inherited, into a "broad commitment" that left President Johnson with a choice between more war and withdrawal.
• That the Johnson Administration, though the President was reluctant and hesitant to take the final decisions, intensified the covert warfare against North Vietnam and began planning in the spring of 1964 to wage overt war, a full year before it publicly revealed the depth of its involvement and its fear of defeat.
• That this campaign of growing clandestine military pressure through 1964 and the expanding program of bombing North Vietnam in 1965 were begun despite the judgment of the Government's intelligence community that the measures would not cause Hanoi to cease its support of the Vietcong insurgency in the South, and that the bombing was deemed militarily ineffective within a few months.
• That the infiltration of men and arms from North Vietnam into the South was more important to the various Administrations as a means of publicly justifying American involvement than it was for its effects on the Vietcong insurgency.
• That these four succeeding Administrations built up the American political, military and psychological stakes in Indochina, often more deeply than they realized at the time, with large-scale shipments of military equipment to the French in 1950; with acts of sabotage and terror warfare against North Vietnam beginning in 1954; with moves that encouraged and abetted the overthrow of President Diem in 1963; with plans, pledges and threats of further action that sprang to life in the Tonkin Gulf clashes in August, 1964; with the careful preparation of public opinion for the years of open warfare that were to follow, and with the calculation in 1965, as the planes and troops were openly committed to sustained combat, that neither accommodation inside South Vietnam nor early negotiations with North Vietnam would achieve the desired result.

In these disclosures and analyses of the origins and course of the war lies the immediate significance of the Pentagon papers.

But the documents and the narrative histories have a greater significance beyond the war in Indochina and its traumatic effects upon the United States and the countries of Southeast Asia. For this archive represents the first good look since the end of World War II at the inner workings of the machinery of the Executive Branch that has grown up under the American Presidency. The most recent body of policy documents to come into the public domain is dated 1946, the last year for which the State Department has released any of its archives. The Pentagon papers also contain documents, such as the reports on clandestine warfare, of a kind that generally are excluded from the State Department's policy of releasing documents after 25 years.

Clandestine warfare. as this collection of New York Times articles on the Pentagon papers will illustrate. naturally has an important effect on public events. Covert operations also occasionally violate treaties and contradict open policy pronouncements. No matter what vintage. therefore, documents related to clandestine war are, in the bureaucratic phrase, "excluded from downgrading" under the classification regulations, in order to avoid embarrassing the Executive Branch and the men responsible.

The instances are also rare in which a collection of documents akin to the Pentagon papers has come to light in modern history. The last examples were the release of the secret Czarist archives after the Russian Revolution in 1917, the publication of imperial Germany's records by the Weimar Republic following World War I, and the capture of the Nazi archives by the Allies at the climax of World War II.

The internal functioning of the machinery of the post-World War II Executive Branch has been much theorized about, but only intermittently perceived in authentic detail. Usually these perceptions have come in the personal memoirs of the policymakers, whose version of history has been understandably selective.

To read the Pentagon papers in their vast detail is to step through the looking glass into a new and different world. This world has a set of values, a dynamic, a language and a perspective quite distinct from the public world of the ordinary citizen and of the two other branches of the Republic-Congress and the judiciary.

Clandestine warfare against North Vietnam, for example, is not seen, either in the written words of the senior decision-makers in the Executive Branch or by the anonymous authors of the study, as violating the Geneva accords of 1954, which ended the French Indochina War, or as conflicting with the public policy pronouncements of the various Administrations. Clandestine warfare, because it is covert, does not exist as far as treaties and public posture are concerned. Further, secret commitments to other nations are not sensed as infringing on the treaty-making powers of the Senate, because they are not publicly acknowledged.

The guarded world of the government insider and the public world are like two intersecting circles. Only a small portion of the government circle is perceived from the public domain, however. Vigorous internal policy debates are only dimly heard and high-level intelligence analyses that contradict policy are not read outside. But, as the Pentagon papers demonstrate, knowledge of these policy debates and the dissents from the intelligence agencies might have given Congress and the public a different attitude toward the publicly announced decisions of the successive Administrations.

The segments of the public world -- Congress, the news media, the citizenry, even international opinion as a whole -- are regarded from within the world of the government insider as elements to be influenced. The policy memorandums repeatedly discuss ways to move these outside "audiences" in the desired direction, through such techniques as the controlled release of information and appeals to patriotic stereotypes. The Pentagon papers are replete with examples of the power the Executive Branch has acquired to make its influence felt in the public domain.

The papers also make clear the deep-felt need of the government insider for secrecy in order to keep the machinery of state functioning smoothly and to maintain a maximum ability to affect the public world. And even within the inner world, only a small number of men at the top know what is really happening. During the five-day bombing pause in May, 1965, for instance, Secretary McNamara, in order to guard against leaks, sent a top-secret but misleading order through the entire military command structure stating that the purpose was to permit reconnaissance aircraft to conduct "a thorough study of [North Vietnamese] lines of communication."

The real purpose of the pause, the history says, was to provide an opportunity to secretly deliver what amounted to "a 'cease and desist' order" to Hanoi to call off the insurgency in the South. When this "demand for their surrender" was rejected, the history continues, the seemingly peaceful gesture of the pause would provide political credit for an escalation of the air war against North Vietnam afterwards. As President Johnson explained in a personal cable directly to General Maxwell D. Taylor, then the American Ambassador in Saigon, he wanted a pause "which I could use to good effect with world opinion."

"You should understand that my purpose in this plan is to begin to clear a path either toward restoration of peace or toward increased military action, depending upon the reaction of the Communists," the President said. "We have amply demonstrated our determination and our commitment in the last two months, and I now wish to gain some flexibility."

Such sharp and fresh detail in the Pentagon papers on the hitherto gray workings of the Executive Branch poses broad questions, for all spectrums of American political opinion, about the process of governing.

The principal actors in this history, the leading decision-makers, emerge as confident men -- confident of place, of education and of accomplishment. They are problem-solvers, who seem rarely to doubt their ability to prevail. In a memorandum to President Johnson on Feb. 7, 1965, recommending a full-scale bombing campaign against North Vietnam, McGeorge Bundy, the former Harvard dean who was now the special presidential assistant for national security affairs, remarked in self-assured tones that "measured against the costs of defeat in Vietnam, this program seems cheap. And even if it fails to turn the tide -- as it may -- the value of the effort seems to us to exceed its cost." In the same memorandum, Mr. Bundy assured the President that General Taylor and the other senior members of the United States Mission in Saigon were "outstanding men, and United States policy within Vietnam is mainly right and well directed."

"None of the special solutions or criticisms put forward with zeal by individual reformers in Government or in the press is of major importance, and many of them are flatly wrong," Mr. Bundy told the President. "No man is perfect, and not every tactical step of recent months has been perfectly chosen, but when you described the Americans in Vietnam as your first team, you were right."

Of the generals, like William C. Westmoreland, the military commander in Vietnam, and Earle G. Wheeler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the history remarks that they were "men accustomed to winning." The written language of these men, and that of a number of the Pentagon authors, is the dry, sparse language of problem-solving. There are the options, "Option A, Option B and Option C," and the "scenarios" for war planning, and the phrases like "wider action" and "overt military pressures" to describe open warfare. The conflict in Indochina is approached as a practical matter that will yield to the unfettered application of well-trained minds, and of the bountiful resources in men, weapons and money that a great power can command.

The restraints -- the limits of action perceived -- are what the body politic at home will tolerate and the fear of clashing with another major power -- the Soviet Union or China. There is an absence of emotional anguish or moral questioning of action in the memorandums and cablegrams and records of the high-level policy discussions. Only once in the history do two of the leading participants, Secretary McNamara and the late John T. McNaughton, the head of the Pentagon's politico-military operations as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, express emotional and moral qualms. The occasion, recounted in Chapter 9, was a personal letter from Mr. McNaughton to Mr. McNamara, his friend as well as superior, in May, 1967, and a subsequent memorandum both men drafted for President Johnson later that month, unsuccessfully recommending a cutback in the bombing of the North to the 20th Parallel as a gesture toward peace. The letter and the related memorandum stand out as lonely cries against the magnitude of the human cost of the war.

Because the historians were forbidden to interview the decision-makers, a number of whom had left government by the time the history was being written, the narrative lacks the motives and the considerations that were never committed to paper. The historians could not fill in the breaks in the documentary trail or always be certain of the precise context of a document.

This limitation, however, conversely gives the Pentagon papers a validity of their own. For it is a commonplace among journalists and historians that the memories of men, particularly men who have participated in an ill-fated venture, change with time.

For example, in an "eyes only" cable to President Kennedy after a crucial fact-finding mission to South Vietnam in the fall of 1961, General Taylor recommended sending an 8,000- man American combat task force under the cover of a flood relief mission. The majority of the troops should consist of "logistical-type units," General Taylor said, but "after acquiring experience in operating in SVN [South Vietnam], this initial force will require reorganization and adjustment to the local scene." Among the missions of the task force would be to act as "an emergency reserve" for the Saigon government army and as "an advance party of such additional [American] forces as may be introduced if ... contingency plans are invoked."

"As a general reserve," General Taylor continued, the task force "might be thrown into action (with U.S. agreement) against large, formed guerrilla bands which have abandoned the forests for attacks on major targets."

"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 [the task force's] resources can be used effectively to give tangible support in the struggle against the VC [Vietcong]. 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." Without the combat task force, General Taylor warned, "I do not believe that our program to save SVN will succeed ... "

Nearly 10 years later, in a television program recorded in the early spring of 1971 and broadcast on Sunday, June 27, 1971, General Taylor was asked about this recommendation, the gist of which was now publicly known.

"I did not recommend combat forces," he said. "I stressed we would bring in engineer forces, logistics forces, that could work on logistics and help in the very serious flood problem in 1961. So this was not a combat force."

"But you also described it as a military task force which might become the base for a further military expansion into combat forces," the television interviewer persisted.

"That is right, that's correct," the general said. "But I did not recommend anything other than three battalions of infantry. Pardon me, three battalions of engineers."

The Pentagon papers are beyond the reach of memory. The documents are the written words of the men who set the armies in motion and launched the warplanes. These written words undoubtedly contain factual errors and omissions by the decision-makers themselves, and the documents will have to be explained and elaborated upon for a complete historical account. But the written words are immutable, engraved now in the history of the nation for all to examine. This is the strength of the Pentagon papers.

The Times perceived several choices in deciding how -to report the Pentagon history.

One choice was to disregard the narrative-analyses of the Pentagon historians, for whatever individual or institutional biases these might contain, and to report solely on the documents. This approach, however, would have forced The Times reporter to interpret the documents and made him the historian, and so it was rejected.

A second choice was to go beyond the narrative-analyses and the documents by interviewing the leading decision-makers and by seeking alternative interpretations of major events from published histories of the war. This approach would also have meant that The Times was, in effect, writing its own history of the war, and so it, too, was rejected.

A third approach, and the one adopted, was to keep the articles within the general limits set by the narrative-analyses and the documents as a whole. Material was brought in from the public record only where it seemed necessary to put the papers into context for the general reader. When the need to interpret events arose, The Times sought to confine itself to the interpretations in the Pentagon history. Where the Pentagon historians noted gaps in the documentary record, The Times so indicated.

The purpose was to report as accurately as possible on the corporate body of history that the narrative-analyses and the documents form, but the very selection and arrangement of facts, whether in a history or in a newspaper article, inevitably mirrors a point of view or state of mind. The articles that follow thus undoubtedly reflect some of the conceptions of The Times reporters who wrote them. But the hope has been to provide a fair reflection of the Pentagon papers and the desire has been to move them into the public domain as quickly as possible, so that the average citizen and the professional historian can judge the papers on their own merits.

July 16, 1971
New York City
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:09 am


Chapter 1: The Truman and Eisenhower Years: 1945-1960

Highlights of the Period: 1945-1960

South Vietnam, the secret Pentagon account contends, is essentially the creation of the U.S., and the formative years were those of the Truman and -- in particular -- the Eisenhower Administrations.

Here, in chronological order, are key events-actions, decisions, policy formulations -- of this period:


Ho Chi Minh wrote a series of appeals for U.S. support to President Truman and the Secretary of State. There is no indication, the account says, of any reply.


A National Security Council study urged the U.S. to "scrutinize closely the development of threats from Communist aggression" in Asia and to aid "directly concerned" governments.

The U.S. recognized the Bao Dai regime, not Ho; the French requested military aid; Secretary of State Dean Acheson said that the alternative would be the "extension of Communism" throughout Southeast Asia "and possibly westward." The aid decision, the account says, meant the U.S. was "thereafter" directly involved "in the developing tragedy in Vietnam."


The National Security Council reported that the loss of Indochina to Communism "would be critical to the security of the U.S."


The National Security Council urged President Eisenhower to warn that "French acquiescence" in a negotiated settlement would end U.S. aid to France, and suggested that the U.S. might continue the war on to "military victory."

The French asked for a U.S. air strike with disguised planes. The President's nonintervention decision was still tentative. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said he would give a "broad hint" to the French that U.S. intervention was a possibility, with preconditions. Eisenhower ordered a draft Congressional resolution, and the Defense Department prepared a memo on the U.S. forces that would be required.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a memo, said Indochina was "devoid of decisive military objectives."

May -- Dienbienphu fell and the Geneva meetings began.

June -- Col. Edward G. Lansdale of the C.I.A. arrived in Saigon to head a team of agents for "paramilitary operations" and "political- psychological warfare" against the North.

July -- The Geneva sessions ended in accords "temporarily" dividing Vietnam until reunification through free elections in 1956 and prohibiting foreign military use of Vietnamese territory.

August -- A national intelligence estimate termed the chances for a strong regime in the South poor. The National Security Council found the Geneva accords a "disaster" that completed a "major forward stride of Communism," the study says. A Joint Chiefs' memo said a "strong, stable civil government" was the "absolutely essential" basis for U.S. military-training aid. But Mr. Dulles felt the military- training program was "one of the most efficient means" of stabilizing a regime. With the President's approval of the Council's recommendations for direct economic and military aid to South Vietnam, "American policy toward post-Geneva Vietnam was drawn," the account says.

October -- The Lansdale team undertook the "delayed sabotage" of the Hanoi railroad and other operations.

December -- Gen. J. Lawton Collins, the U.S. special representative, urged the removal and replacement of Ngo Dinh Diem as the leader, or the "re-evaluation of our plans" for aid to the area. Mr. Dul1es replied that he had "no other choice but to continue our aid to Vietnam and support of Diem."


April -- Mr. Dulles, after meeting with General Collins, cabled the embassy in Saigon to seek an alternative to Diem.

May -- Mr. Diem, with the aid of Lansdale, quashed the sect uprising in Saigon. Mr. Dulles canceled his previous cable.

December -- Mr. Dulles, in a cable to the embassy in Saigon, said the U.S. should not act to "speed up present process of decay of Geneva accords" but also should not make the "slightest effort to infuse life into them."


The U.S. sent 350 additional military men to Saigon; the account says this was an "example of the U.S. ignoring" the Geneva accords.


A national intelligence estimate predicted that "discontent with the [Diem] Government will probably continue to rise."

Chapter 1: The Truman and Eisenhower Years: 1945-1960

By Fox Butterfield

The secret Pentagon study of the Vietnam war discloses that a few days after the Geneva accords of 1954, the Eisenhower Administration's National Security Council decided that the accords were a "disaster" and approved actions to prevent further Communist expansion in Vietnam.

These National Security Council decisions, the Pentagon account concludes, meant that the United States had "a direct role in the ultimate breakdown of the Geneva settlement."

That judgment contradicts the repeated assertion of several American administrations that North Vietnam alone was to blame for the undermining of the Geneva accords.

According to the Pentagon writer, the National Security Council, at a meeting on Aug. 8, 1954, just after the Geneva conference, ordered an urgent program of economic and military aid -- substituting American advisers for French advisers -- to the new South Vietnamese Government of Ngo Dinh Diem.

The objectives set by the Council were "to maintain a friendly non-Communist South Vietnam" and "to prevent a Communist victory through all-Vietnam elections."

Under the Geneva settlement, Vietnam was to be temporarily divided into two zones pending reunification through elections scheduled for 1956. The introduction of foreign troops or bases and the use of Vietnamese territory for military purposes were forbidden. The United States, which did not join with the nations that endorsed the accords, issued a declaration taking note of the provisions and promising not to disturb them.

But a lengthy report, accompanying the Pentagon study, describes in detail how the Eisenhower Administration sent a team of agents to carry out clandestine warfare against North Vietnam from the minute the Geneva conference closed.

The team, headed by the legendary intelligence operative Col. Edward G. Lansdale, gave a graphic account of the actions just before evacuating Hanoi in October 1954. [See Document #15.]

The report says the team "spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, in taking actions for delayed sabotage of the railroad (which required teamwork with a C.I.A. special technical team in Japan who performed their part brilliantly), and in writing detailed notes of potential targets for future para-military operations."

"U. S. adherence to the Geneva agreement," the authors of the report said, "prevented [the American team] from carrying out the active sabotage it desired to do against the power plant, water facilities, harbor and bridge."

"The team had a bad moment when contaminating the oil. They had to work quickly at night, in an enclosed storage room. Fumes from the contaminant came close to knocking them out. Dizzy and weak-kneed, they masked their faces with handkerchiefs and completed the job."

The report is attributed to a hastily assembled group identified as the Saigon Military Mission. Its authors do not explain why they believed sabotage of buses and the railroad was allowed under the Geneva accords if sabotage of the power plant and harbor was forbidden.

The Pentagon study, which was commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to determine how the United States became involved in the Vietnam war, devotes nine lengthy sections to the nineteen-forties and fifties.

At key points during these years, the Pentagon study says, the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations made far-reaching decisions on Vietnam policy that the public knew little about or misunderstood. And by the time John F. Kennedy became President in 1961, the writers recount, the American Government already felt itself heavily committed to the defense of South Vietnam.

One of the earliest disclosures in the account is that in late 1945 and early 1946, Ho Chi Minh wrote at least eight letters to President Truman and the State Department requesting American help in winning Vietnam's independence from France. [See Document # 1.]

The analyst says he could find no record that the United States ever answered Ho Chi Minh's letters. Nor has Washington ever revealed that it received the letters.

A key point came in the winter of 1949-50 when the United States made what the account describes as a watershed decision affecting American policy in Vietnam for the next two decades: After the fall of mainland China to the Chinese Communists, the Truman Administration moved to support Emperor Bao Dai and provide military aid to the French against the Communist-led Vietminh.

This decision, which was made amid growing concern in the United States over the expansion of Communism in Eastern Europe and Asia, reversed Washington's long-standing reluctance to become involved with French colonialism in Indochina.

With this action, the account says, "the course of U. S. policy was set to block further Communist expansion in Asia." And "the United States thereafter was directly involved in the developing tragedy in Vietnam."

Another key point came in the spring of 1954, the writer discloses, when the Eisenhower Administration strongly hinted to France twice that it was willing to intervene with American military forces to prevent French defeat in Indochina.

While some information has been made public about these proposals, the Pentagon study says that the public has not understood how seriously the Eisenhower Administration debated intervention.

It adds that during the second episode, which occurred in May and June, 1954, while the Geneva conference was in session, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had aides draft a resolution requesting Congressional authority to commit American troops in Indochina.

The National Security Council was so opposed to France's negotiating an end to the war, the analyst relates, that "the President was urged to inform Paris that French acquiescence in a Communist take-over of Indochina would bear on its status as one of the Big Three" and that "U.S. aid to France would automatically cease."

Then in August, 1954, came the decision that the Pentagon account says determined United States policy toward Vietnam for the rest of the decade: The National Security Council launched its program of economic and military aid to Mr. Diem, then Premier and later President, though its action was not made public for months. [See Document #4.]

The Pentagon account discloses that most of these major decisions from 1950 on were made against the advice of the American intelligence community.

Intelligence analysts in the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and sometimes the Pentagon repeatedly warned that the French, Emperor Bao Dai and Premier Diem were weak and unpopular and that the Communists were strong.

In early August, 1954, for example, just before the National Security Council decided to commit the United States to propping up Premier Diem, a national intelligence estimate warned:

"Although it is possible that the French and Vietnamese, even with firm support from the U.S. and other powers, may be able to establish a strong regime in South Vietnam, we believe that the chances for this development are poor and moreover, that the situation is more likely to continue to deteriorate progressively over the next year."

"Given the generally bleak appraisals of Diem's prospects, they who made U.S. policy could only have done so by assuming a significant measure of risk," the study says of the Eisenhower commitments.

The Pentagon study does not deal at length with a major question: Why did the policy-makers go ahead despite the intelligence estimates prepared by their most senior intelligence officials?

The most important reason advanced by the Pentagon study is that after the fall of China to the Communists in 1949 and the hardening of American anti-Communist attitudes, "Indochina's importance to U.S. security interests in the Far East was taken for granted."

The basic rationale for American involvement -- what later came to be called the domino theory -- was first clearly enunciated by the National Security Council in February, 1950, when it decided to extend military aid to the French in Indochina.

"It is important to U.S. security interests," the Council said, "that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further Communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area and is under immediate threat.

"The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina is controlled by a Communist government. The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard."

Subsequent Council decision papers throughout the nineteen-fifties repeated this formulation with ever-increasing sweep.

A Council paper approved by President Eisenhower in January, 1954, predicted that the "loss of any single country" in Southeast Asia would ultimately lead to the loss of all Southeast Asia, then India and Japan, and finally "endanger the stability and security of Europe."

"The domino theory and the assumptions behind it were never questioned," the Pentagon account says of the Eisenhower years. The result was that the Government's internal debate usually centered more on matters of military feasibility than on questions of basic national interests.

U.S. Policy in "Disarray"

The Pentagon study, which begins its account of American involvement in Vietnam with World War II, says that American policy from 1940 to 1950 has been a subject of "significant misunderstanding."

American policy toward Vietnam during these years, the study says, was "Less purposeful" than most people have assumed, and more characterized by "ambivalence and indecision."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the writer relates, never made up his mind whether to support the French desire to reclaim their Indochina colonies from the Japanese at the end of the war.

And at his death, American policy toward Indochina was in "disarray," the writer says.

He recounts that at first the Truman Administration had no clear-cut reaction to the conflict that broke out in 1945 and 1946 between the French and the Vietminh and eventually led to full-scale war. American policy, he adds, remained "ambivalent."

In a cablegram still kept secret in State Department files, Secretary of State George C. Marshall described the Government's quandary to the embassy in Paris:

"We have fully recognized France's sovereign position and we do not wish to have it appear that we are in any way endeavoring undermine that position.

"At same time we cannot shut our eyes to fact there are two sides this problem and that our reports indicate both a lack of French understanding other side and continued existence dangerously outmoded colonial outlook and method in areas.

"On other hand we do not lose sight fact that Ho Chi Minh has direct Communist connections and it should be obvious that we are not interested in seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted by philosophy and political organization directed from and controlled by Kremlin.

"Frankly we have no solution of problem to suggest."

On this reasoning, the Truman Government refused French requests for American planes and ships to transport French troops to Indochina and similarly turned down appeals for American arms to help fight the Vietminh.

But the Truman Administration also rebuffed the appeals from Ho Chi Minh. In August and September, 1945, the account relates, while his forces were in control of Hanoi, he sent a request to President Truman through the Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the C.I.A., asking that Vietnam be accorded "the same status as the Philippines" for a period of tutelage pending independence.

From October, 1945, until the following February, the account continues, Ho Chi Minh wrote at least eight letters to President Truman or to the Secretary of State, formally appealing for United States and United Nations intervention against French colonialism.

There is no record, the analyst says, that any of the appeals were answered.

"Nonintervention by the United States on behalf of the Vietnamese was tantamount to acceptance of the French," the Pentagon account declares.

In 1948 and 1949, as concern about the Soviet Union's expansion in Eastern Europe grew in the United States, Washington became increasingly anxious about Ho Chi Minh's Communist affiliations. Nevertheless, the account discloses, a survey by the State Department's Office of Intelligence and Research in the fall of 1948 concluded that it could not find any hard evidence that Ho Chi Minh actually took his orders from Moscow.

"If there is a Moscow-directed conspiracy in Southeast Asia, Indochina is an anomaly so far," the study reported in its evaluation section.

With its growing concern about Communism, Washington began to press Paris harder to give more independence to the Indochina states. The American Government thus hoped to encourage Vietnamese popular support for Bao Dai as a non- Communist alternative to Ho Chi Minh and his Vietminh.

Yet, the narrative relates, even when in March, 1949, France did agree with Emperor Bao Dai to grant Vietnam independence within the French Union, the Truman Administration continued to withhold its backing, fearful that Bao Dai was still weak and tainted with French colonialism.

In a cablegram to the Paris embassy, the State Department outlined its concern:

"We cannot at this time irretrievably commit the U.S. to support of a native government which by failing to develop appeal among Vietnamese might become virtually a puppet government separated from the people and existing only by the presence of French military forces."

But when Mao Tse-tung's armies drove Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek out of China in late 1949, Washington's ambivalence ended dramatically.

On Dec. 30 President Truman approved a key National Security Council study on Asia, designated N.S.C. 48/2. With it, the Pentagon study says, "The course of U. S. policy was set to block further Communist expansion in Asia."

"The United States on its own initiative," the document declared, "should now scrutinize closely the development of threats from Communist aggression, direct or indirect, and be prepared to help within our means to meet such threats by providing political, economic and military assistance and advice where clearly needed to supplement the resistance of other governments in and out of the area which are more directly concerned."

The Council document concluded that "particular attention should be given to the problem of French Indochina."

The basic policy decisions having been made, the Pentagon account relates, developments followed swiftly.

When Peking and Moscow recognized Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in January, 1950, Washington followed by recognizing Bao Dai that Feb. 7.

Nine days later, the French requested military aid for the war in Indochina. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, in recommending a favorable reply, wrote in a memorandum to President Truman:

"The choice confronting the U. S. is to support the legal governments in Indochina or to face the extension of Communism over the remainder of the continental area of Southeast Asia and possibly westward."

On May 8, Washington announced that it would provide economic and military aid to the French in Indochina, beginning with a grant of $10-million.

The first step had been taken. "The U.S. thereafter was directly involved in the developing tragedy in Vietnam," the account says.

Ultimately, the American military aid program reached $1.1-billion in 1954, paying for 78 per cent of the French war burden.

Brink of Intervention

In the spring of 1954, as the French military position in Indochina deteriorated rapidly and the date for the Geneva conference approached, the Eisenhower Administration twice hinted to France that it was ready to intervene with American forces.

The Pentagon study contends that while some information about these two episodes has become public, the American people have never been told how seriously the Eisenhower inner circle debated intervening.

"The record shows plainly," the analyst says, "that the U.S. did seriously consider intervention and advocated it to the U.K. and other allies."

The first of these episodes, during March and April before the fall of the French fortress at Dienbienphu, was disclosed not long afterward by American journalists. But the story of the second, in May and early June while the Geneva conference was in session, has never been fully revealed. Mr. Eisenhower himself, in his 1963 book "Mandate for Change," mentioned the second debate over intervention but gave only a sketchy account and did not report asking Secretary Dulles to draft a Congressional resolution.

The Eisenhower Administration felt intervention might be necessary, the study says, because without American help the French were likely to negotiate a "sellout" at Geneva to escape an unpopular war.

As early as August, 1953, the National Security Council decided that American policy should be that "under present conditions any negotiated settlement would mean the eventual loss to Communism not only of Indochina but of the whole of Southeast Asia. The loss of Indochina would be critical to the security of the U.S."

The Eisenhower Administration stated its opposition to a negotiated settlement most fully in an N.S.C. paper, "United States Position on Indochina to be Taken at Geneva," late in April in the week the conference opened.

It was at this point, according to the study, that the Council urged President Eisenhower "to inform Paris that French acquiescence in a Communist take-over of Indochina would bear on its status as one of the Big Three" and that "U.S. aid to France would automatically cease."

In addition, the Council's policy paper said that the United States should consider continuing the war itself, with the Indochina states, if France negotiated an unsatisfactory settlement. America's goal should be nothing short of a "military victory," the Council said.

The Government's internal record shows, the study says, that while Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Adm. Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed hard for intervention, other service chiefs, particularly Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway of the Army, were more cautious. They remembered the bitter and protracted experience in Korea and were not eager to repeat it.

President Eisenhower finally reached a decision against intervention on April 4 after a meeting of Mr. Dulles and Admiral Radford with Congressional leaders the previous day showed that the Congress would not support American action without allied help.

As journalists wrote, at the time, the President felt he must have Congressional approval before he committed American troops, and the Congressional leaders insisted on allied participation, especially by Britain.

At the very time the President was reaching this conclusion, Ambassador Douglas Dillon in Paris was cabling that the French had requested the "immediate armed intervention of U.S. carrier aircraft at Dienbienphu." [See Document #5.]

Mr. Dillon noted that the French had been prompted to make the request because they had been told by Admiral Radford that "he would do his best to obtain such help from the U.S. Government."

Moreover, the President's decision of April 4, contrary to what was written at the time, was only tentative. The debate on intervention was still very much alive, the Pentagon account says.

In fact, the following day, April 5, the National Security Council, in an action paper, concluded:

"On balance, it appears that the U.S. should now reach a decision whether or not to intervene with combat forces if that is necessary to save Indochina from Communist control, and tentatively the form and conditions of any such intervention."

On May 7, with the news that Dienbienphu had just fallen and with the delegates already in Geneva, President Eisenhower met with Mr. Dulles in the White House to again consider intervention.

According to a memorandum by Robert Cutler, the President's executive assistant, they discussed how "the U.S. should (as a last act to save Indochina) propose to France" that if certain conditions were met "the U.S. will go to Congress for authority to intervene with combat forces." The words in parentheses appeared in the memorandum. [See Document #8.]

Mr. Cutler noted that he explained to the President that some members of the Council's Planning Board "felt that it had never been made clear to the French that the United States was willing to ask for Congressional authority" if the preconditions were met.

Mr. Dulles said he would mention the subject to the French Ambassador, Henry Bonnet, that afternoon, "perhaps making a more broad hint than heretofore."

The preconditions included a call for the French to grant "genuine freedom" to the Indochina states -- Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

They also stipulated that American advisers in Vietnam should "take major responsibility for training indigenous forces" and "share responsibility for military planning." American officers in Vietnam had long chafed under the limits on the role the French allowed them, the study says.

Participation by the British, who had shown themselves extremely reluctant to get involved, was no longer cited as a condition.

The French picked up Mr. Dulles's hint, and on May 10 Premier Joseph Laniel told Ambassador Dillon that France needed American intervention to save Indochina. That evening the President again met with Mr. Dulles, along with Admiral Radford and Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, to discuss the French appeal.

During the meeting President Eisenhower directed Secretary Dulles to prepare a resolution that he could take before a joint meeting of Congress, requesting authority to commit American troops in Indochina.

From a document included in the Pentagon chronicle -- the partial text of a legal commentary by a Pentagon official on the draft Congressional resolution -- it is clear that such a Congressional resolution was prepared and circulated in the State Department, the Justice Department and the Defense Department.

Both the State Department and the Defense Department then undertook what the account describes as "contingency planning" for possible intervention -- the State Department drawing up a hypothetical timetable of diplomatic moves and the Defense Department preparing a memorandum on the U.S. forces that would be required.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Wilson on May 20, recommended that the United States limit its involvement to "air and naval support directed from outside Indochina."

"From the point of view of the United States," the Joint Chiefs said, "Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token U.S. armed forces to that area would be a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities."

In the debates over intervention, the study says, advocates of American action advanced several novel ideas. Admiral Radford proposed to the French, for example, that the United States help create an "International Volunteer Air Corps" for Indochina. The French in April had suggested an American air strike with the planes painted with French markings. And late in May the French suggested that the President might be able to get around Congress if he sent just a division of marines -- some 15,000 men.

But all the arguments in favor of intervention came to naught. The French Cabinet felt that the war-weary National Assembly would balk at any further military action.

And the military situation in the Red River Delta near Hanoi deteriorated so badly in late May and early June that Washington felt intervention would now be useless. On June 15 Secretary Dulles informed Ambassador Bonnet that the time for intervention had run out.

The Geneva "Disaster"

When the Geneva agreements were concluded on July 21, 1954 the account says, "except for the United States, the major powers were satisfied with their handiwork."

France, Britain, the Soviet Union, Communist China and to some extent North Vietnam believed that they had ended the war and had transferred the conflict to the political realm.

And. the study says, most of the governments involved "anticipated that France would remain in Vietnam." They expected that Paris would retain a major influence over the Diem regime, train Premier Diem's army and insure that the 1956 elections specified by the Geneva accords were carried out.

But the Eisenhower Administration took a different view, the Pentagon account relates.

In meetings Aug. 8 and 12, the National Security Council concluded that the Geneva settlement was a "disaster" that "completed a major forward stride of Communism which may lead to the loss of Southeast Asia."

The Council's thinking appeared consistent with its decision in April before the conference began, that the United States would not associate itself with an unsatisfactory settlement. Secretary Dulles had announced this publicly on several occasions, and in the end the United States had only taken note of the agreements.

But before the Council reached a final decision in August on exactly what programs to initiate in Indochina, several dissenting voices rose inside the Government.

The national intelligence estimate of Aug. 3 warned that even with American support it was unlikely that the French or Vietnamese would be able to establish a strong government. And the National Intelligence Board predicted that the situation would probably continue to deteriorate.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had also objected to proposals that the United States train and equip the South Vietnamese Army.

In a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense on Aug. 4, the Joint Chiefs listed their preconditions for U.S. military aid to the Diem regime:

"It is absolutely essential that there be a reasonably strong, stable civil government in control. It is hopeless to expect a U. S. military training mission to achieve success unless the nation concerned is able effectively to perform those governmental functions essential to the successful raising and maintenance of armed forces."

The Joint Chiefs also called for the complete "withdrawal of French forces, French officials and French advisers from Indochina in order to provide motivation and a sound basis for the establishment of national armed forces."

Finally the Joint Chiefs expressed concern about the limits placed on American forces in Vietnam by the Geneva accords -- they were restricted to 342 men, the number of American military personnel present in Vietnam when the armistice was signed.

Despite these arguments, the study says, Secretary of State Dulles felt that the need to stop Communism in Vietnam made action imperative.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Wilson, he said that while the Diem regime "is far from strong or stable," a military training program would be "one of the most efficient means of enabling the Vietnamese Government to become strong."

In the end, the study recounts, Secretary Dulles's views were persuasive.

On Aug. 20 the President approved a National Security Council paper titled "Review of U.S. Policy in the Far East." It outlined a threefold program:

• Militarily, the United States would "work with France only so far as necessary to build up indigenous forces able to provide internal security."
• Economically, the United States would begin giving aid directly to the Vietnamese, not as before through the French. The French were to be dissociated from the levers of command."
• Politically, the United States would work with Premier Diem, but would encourage him to broaden his Government and establish more democratic institutions.

With these decisions, the account says "American policy toward post-Geneva Vietnam was drawn." The commitment for the United States to assume the burden of defending South Vietnam had been made.

"The available record does not indicate any rebuttal" to the warnings of the National Intelligence Board or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the account reports. "What it does indicate is that the U.S. decided to gamble with very limited resources because the potential gains seemed well worth a limited risk."

Although this major decision for direct American involvement in Vietnam was made in August, the Pentagon account shows that the Eisenhower Administration had already sent a team of Americans to begin secret operations against the Vietminh in June, while the Geneva conference was still in session.

The team was headed by Colonel Lansdale, the C.I.A. agent who had established a reputation as America's leading expert in counter-guerrilla warfare in the Philippines, where he had helped President Ramon Magsaysay suppress the Communist-led Hukbalahap insurgents.

So extensive were his subsequent exploits in Vietnam in the nineteen-fifties that Colonel Landsdale was widely known as the model for the leading characters in two novels of Asian intrigue -- "The Quiet American," by Graham Greene, and "The Ugly American," by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

A carefully detailed 21,000-word report by members of Colonel Lansdale's team, the Saigon Military Mission, is appended to the Pentagon chronicle. [See Document # 15.]

According to that report, in the form of a diary from June, ] 954, to August, 1955, the team was originally instructed "to undertake paramilitary operations against the enemy and to wage political-psychological warfare."

"Later," it adds, "after Geneva, the mission was modified to prepare the means for undertaking paramilitary operations in Communist areas rather than to wage unconventional warfare."

One of Colonel Lansdale's first worries was to get his team members into Vietnam before the Aug. 11 deadline set by the Geneva agreements for a freeze on the number of foreign' military personnel. As the deadline approached, the report says, it appeared that the Saigon Military Mission "might have only two members present unless action was taken."

It adds that Lieut. Gen. John W. O'Daniel, chief of the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group, "agreed to the addition of 10 S.M.M. members under MAAG cover, plus any others in the Defense pipeline who arrived before the deadline. A call for help went out. Ten officers in Korea, Japan and Okinawa were selected and rushed to Vietnam."

While the report says that the team members were given cover by being listed as members of MAAG, the report also points out that they communicated with Washington through the C.I.A. station in Saigon.

Colonel Lansdale himself is identified as a member of the C.I.A. in a memorandum on the actions of the President's Special Committee on Indochina, written Jan. 30, 1954, by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel 3d. [See Document #3.]

The memorandum, which is appended to the Pentagon study, lists Colonel Lansdale as one of the C.I.A. representatives present at the meeting. Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, also attended the meeting.

In the fall of 1954, after all the members had arrived in Vietnam, the report says, the team's activities increased.

Under Colonel Lansdale, "a small English-language class [was] conducted for mistresses of important personages at their request."

This class provided valuable contacts for Colonel Lansdale, enabling him to get to know such people as the "favorite mistress" of the army Chief of Staff, Gen. Nguyen Van Hinh, the report recounts.

When the Oct. 9 deadline for the French evacuation of Hanoi approached, the team sought to sabotage some of Hanoi's key facilities.

"It was learned that the largest printing establishment in the north intended to remain in Hanoi and do business with the Vietminh," the report relates. "An attempt was made by S.M.M. to destroy the modern presses, but Vietminh security agents already had moved into the plant and frustrated the attempt."

It was the mission's team in Hanoi that spent several nights pouring contaminant in the engines of the Hanoi bus company so the buses would gradually be wrecked after the Vietminh took over the city.

At the same time, the mission's team carried out what the report calls "black psywar strikes" -- that is, psychological warfare with materials falsely attributed to the other side. The team printed what appeared to be "leaflets signed by the Vietminh instructing Tonkinese on how to behave for the Vietminh takeover of the Hanoi region in early October, including items about property, money reform and a three-day holiday of workers upon take-over." The attempt to scare the people worked.

"The day following the distribution of these leaflets," the report adds, "refugee registration [of those wishing to flee North Vietnam] tripled. Two days later Vietminh currency was worth half the value prior to the leaflets.

"The Vietminh took to the radio to denounce the leaflets; the leaflets were so authentic in appearance that even most of the rank-and-file Vietminh were sure that the radio denunciations were a French trick."

In the South, the team hired Vietnamese astrologers -- in whose art many Asians place great trust -- to compile almanacs bearing dire predictions for the Vietminh and good omens for the new Government of Premier Diem.

To carry out clandestine operations in North Vietnam after the team evacuated Hanoi, the report adds, Maj. Lucien Conein, an officer of S.M.M., recruited a group of Vietnamese agents under the code name of Binh.

"The group was to be trained and supported by the U.S. as patriotic Vietnamese," the report says, "to come eventually under Government control when the Government was ready for such activities. Thirteen Binhs were quietly ex-filtrated through the port of Haiphong ... and taken on the first stage of the journey to their training area by a U.S. Navy ship."

Until Haiphong was finally evacuated in May, 1955, Civil Air Transport, the Taiwan-based airline run by Gen. Claire Chennault, smuggled arms for the Binh team from Saigon to Haiphong.

In exchange, the report says, the Lansdale Mission got C.AT. the lucrative contract for flying the thousands of refugees out of North Vietnam.

As the report describes the team's actions, "Haiphong was reminiscent of our own pioneer days as it was swamped with people whom it couldn't shelter. Living space and food were at a premium, nervous tension grew. It was a wild time for our northern team."

Another team of 21 agents, code-named the Hao group, were recruited in Saigon, smuggled out on a U.S. Navy ship while disguised as coolies, and taken to a "secret site" for training, the report goes on.

Arms for the Haos were smuggled into Saigon by the United States Air Force, the report says, adding that S.M.M. brought in eight and a half tons of equipment. This included 14 radios, 300 carbines, 50 pistols, 300 pounds of explosives and 100,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Lansdale team's report does not tell what kinds of intelligence or sabotage activities the Binh and Hao groups carried out in North Vietnam. But it does recount that one Binh agent was mistakenly picked up by Premier Diem's troops on his return to South Vietnam.

"He was interrogated by being handcuffed to a leper, both beaten with the same stick to draw blood, told he would now have leprosy, and both locked up in a tiny cell together," it says. "S.M.M. was able to have him released."

For fiscal year 1955, the report shows, expenses for the Saigon Military Mission ran to $228,000. This did not include salary for the American officers or costs of weapons drawn from American stocks.

The largest item, $123,980, was listed as payment for operations, including pay and expenses for agents, safehouses and transportation.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Lansdale In the Breach

While Colonel Lansdale's team carried out its covert operations, the major policy decisions made by the National Security Council in August, 1954, were being put into practice.

In December, Gen. J. Lawton Collins, who had been chosen by President Eisenhower as his personal representative to Vietnam, signed an agreement with the French providing for the United States to take over all military training duties from them.

The agreement was put into effect in February, 1955, the account says, and the French, under American pressure, began their unexpected withdrawal from South Vietnam.

Despite the decision in August, 1954, to back Premier Diem, there was still widespread uneasiness in the American Government over his lack of support and the fragile political situation in Saigon, the Pentagon account goes on.

General Collins, who had been given the rank of Ambassador, felt that Premier Diem was unequal to the task and urged that he be removed.

If the United States was unwilling to replace Mr. Diem, General Collins wrote to Washington in December, 1954, then "I recommend re-evaluation of our plans for assisting Southeast Asia." This is the "least desirable but in all honesty and in view of what I have observed here to date this may be the only sound solution," he said.

Still Secretary Dulles remained convinced, as he cabled in reply to General Collins's message, that "we have no other choice but continue our aid to Vietnam and support of Diem." And he told Assistant Secretary of State Walter Robertson several days later that the United States must "take the plunge" with Mr. Diem, the narrative adds.

In the spring of 1955 the crisis in Saigon worsened. The Hoa Hao and Cao Dai armed sects formed a united front with the Binh Xuyen, a group of gangsters who controlled Saigon's police against Premier Diem, and sporadic fighting broke out in the city. The French told Washington they thought Premier Diem was "hopeless" and "mad."

General Collins, now adamant that Mr. Diem must go, flew back to Washington in late April to press his case personally with the Secretary of State.

On April 27, after a meeting with General Collins, Secretary Dulles reluctantly agreed to the replacing of Premier Diem. He cabled the embassy in Saigon to find an alternative.

But Colonel Lansdale was working hard to support his friend Mr. Diem. In October the colonel had foiled a coup against Mr. Diem by Gen. Nguyen Van Hinh, the army Chief of Staff, by inviting General Hinh's two key aides to visit the Philippines for a tour of secret projects.

The authors of the Lansdale group's report do not specifically state that the team's instructions included supporting Mr. Diem against internal non-Communist opposition. But it is apparent from Colonel Lansdale's actions that he considered this an important part of his mission.

During the fall of 1954 Colonel Lansdale helped Mr. Diem recruit, pay and train reliable bodyguards. He had been shocked to discover when he visited Mr. Diem at the palace during a coup attempt that the official bodyguards had all deserted. "Not a guard was left on the grounds," the report says. "President Diem was alone upstairs, calmly getting his work done."

With permission from the embassy, the Saigon Military Mission then began secretly paying funds to a Cao Dai leader, Gen. Trinh Minh The, who offered his services to Premier Diem.

Colonel Lansdale also brought from the Philippines President Magsaysay's senior military aide and three assistants to train a battalion of Vietnamese palace guards.

When the sect crisis broke out in the spring of 1955, Colonel Lansdale visited Mr. Diem nearly every day, the S.M.M. report says. "At President Diem's request, we had been seeing him almost nightly as tensions increased, our sessions with him lasting for hours at a time."

During the sect armies' uprising, the Saigon Military Mission helped Premier Diem plan measures against the Binh Xuyen, and Colonel Lansdale repeatedly pressed the embassy to support the Premier.

With the acting C.I.A. station chief, Colonel Lansdale formed a team to help take action against the Binh Xuyen. The S.M.M. report recounts that "all measures possible under the narrow limits permitted by U.S. policy were taken."

Uncharacteristically, the report adds, "These will not be described here, but there were a number of successful actions."

On what proved to be the crucial day, April 28, the Pentagon study reports, Premier Diem summoned Colonel Lansdale to the palace and outlined his troubles. He had just "received word from his embassy in Washington that the U.S. appeared to be about to stop supporting him."

This was probably a reference to Secretary Dulles's decision of the previous day.

Premier Diem also reported that Binh Xuyen units had begun firing on his troops.

Colonel Lansdale sought to reassure him. "We told him that it looked as though Vietnam still needed a leader," the report says, "that Diem was still President, that the U.S. was still supporting him."

That afternoon .Premier Diem ordered a counterattack against the Binh Xuyen, and within nine hours achieved a major victory.

"Washington responded with alacrity to Diem's success, superficial though it was," the narrative says. Saigon was told to forget Secretary Dulles's order to drop Diem. The embassy then burned the April 27 message.

Thereafter Mr. Diem had full American backing, the study reports, and moved with more confidence. The next October he organized a referendum to choose between himself and Bao Dai.

After winning what the Pentagon narrative describes as a "too resounding" 98.2 per cent of the vote, Premier Diem proclaimed himself President.

Elections Balked

In July, 1955, under the provisions of the Geneva agreements, the two zones of Vietnam were to begin consultations on the elections scheduled for the next year.

But Premier Diem refused to talk with the Communists. And in July, 1956, he refused to hold elections for reunification. He asserted that the South Vietnamese Government had not signed the Geneva accords and therefore was not bound by them.

American scholars and government officials have long argued over whether the United States was responsible for Mr. Diem's refusal to hold the elections and therefore, in a sense, whether Americans had a role in turning the Communists from politics back to warfare.

The Pentagon study contends that the "United States did not -- as it is often alleged -- connive with Diem to ignore the elections. U.S. State Department records indicate that Diem's refusal to be bound by the Geneva accords and his opposition to pre-election consultations were at his own initiative."

But the Pentagon account also cites State Department cables and National Security Council memorandums indicating that the Eisenhower Administration wished to postpone the elections as long as possible and communicated its feelings to Mr. Diem.

As early as July 7, 1954, during the Geneva conference, Secretary Dulles suggested that the United States ought to seek to delay the elections and to require guarantees that the Communists could be expected to reject.

In a secret cablegram to Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith, who filled in for him after he withdrew from the Geneva conference, Secretary Dulles wrote:

"Since undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, this makes it al1 more important they should be only held as long after cease-fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give democratic elements best chance."

Following similar reasoning the National Security Council in May, 1955, shortly before consultations on the elections were supposed to begin, produced a draft statement, "U.S. Policy on All-Vietnam Elections."

According to the Pentagon study, it "held that to give no impression of blocking elections while avoiding the possibility of losing them, Diem should insist on free elections by secret ballot with strict supervision. Communists in Korea and Germany had rejected these conditions; hopefully the Vietminh would follow suit."

But on June 9, the account says, the Council "decided to shelve the draft statement. Its main features had already been conveyed to Diem."

Secretary Dulles's ambivalent attitude toward the Geneva accords is also reflected in a cablegram he sent to the United States Embassy in Saigon on Dec. 11, 1955, outlining Washington's position toward the International Control Commission.

"While we should certainly take no positive step to speed up present process of decay of Geneva accords," it said, "neither should we make the slightest effort to infuse life into them."

In May, 1956, in what the Pentagon account says is an "example of the U.S. ignoring" the Geneva accords, 350 additional military men were sent to Saigon under the pretext of helping the Vietnamese recover and redistribute equipment abandoned by the French.

This was "a thinly veiled device to increase the number of Americans in Vietnam," the Pentagon account says.

These men, who were officially designated the Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission or TERM, stayed on as a permanent part of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, the narrative says, to help in intelligence and administrative work.

Washington dispatched the TERM group, the Pentagon study discloses, "when it was learned informally that the Indian Government would instruct its representative on the I.C.C. to interpose no objection."

The I.C.C. is composed of representatives from Poland, India and Canada, with the Indian usually considered the neutral representative.

After the crisis with the sects in the spring of 1955 and the uneventful passing of the date for elections in 1956, American officials were hopeful that President Diem had succeeded.

"It seemed for a while that the gamble against long odds had succeeded," the Pentagon account says. "The Vietminh were quiescent; the Republic of Vietnam armed forces were markedly better armed and trained than they were when the U.S. effort began; and President Diem showed a remarkable ability to put down factions threatening the GVN [Government of Vietnam] and to maintain himself in office."

The American aid effort, the study reports, was focused almost entirely on security. Eight out of every 10 dollars went to security, and much of what was intended for agriculture, education, or transportation actually went to security-directed programs.

For example, the account says, a 20-mile stretch of highway, built between Saigon and Bienhoa at the insistence of the MAAG commander, Gen. Samuel T. Williams, received more aid money than all the funds provided for labor, community development, social welfare, health and education from 1954 to 1961.

But despite American hopes and the aid effort, the insurgency in the countryside began to pick up again in 1957 and particularly in 1959. The number of terrorist murders and kidnappings of local officials rose dramatically, and enemy units began to attack in ever-increasing size.

As the insurgency grew, the small American intelligence network "correctly and consistently estimated" the nature of the opposition to President Diem and his own weaknesses, the Pentagon study says. The American intelligence estimates "were remarkably sound," it adds.

A special national intelligence estimate in August, 1960, for example, said that:

"In the absence of more effective Government measures to protect the peasants and to win their positive cooperation, the prospect is for expansion of the areas of Vietcong control in the countryside, particularly in the southwestern provinces.

"Dissatisfaction and discontent with the Government will probably continue to rise.

"These adverse trends are not irreversible, but if they remain unchecked, they will almost certainly in time cause the collapse of Diem's regime."

However, the study relates, "the national intelligence estimates re Diem do not appear to have restrained the N.S.C. in its major reviews of U.S. policy" toward Vietnam.

The basic Eisenhower Administration policy papers on Southeast Asia in 1956, 1958 and 1960 repeated American objectives in "virtually identical" language, the Pentagon account reports.

According to the 1956 paper by the National Security Council, these were among the goals of American policy toward Vietnam:

• "Assist Free Vietnam to develop a strong, stable and constitutional government to enable Free Vietnam to assert an increasingly attractive contrast to conditions in the present Communist zone."
• "Work toward the weakening of the Communists in North and South Vietnam in order to bring about the eventual peaceful reunification of a free and independent Vietnam under anti-Communist leadership."
• "Support the position of the Government of Free Vietnam that all-Vietnam elections may take place only after it is satisfied that genuinely free elections can be held throughout both zones of Vietnam."

During the late nineteen-fifties, the study relates, United States officials in Saigon were also optimistic in their public comments about the situation, despite the pessimistic secret reports they forwarded to Washington.

"While classified policy paper thus dealt with risks," the account says, "public statements of U.S. officials did not refer to the jeopardy. To the contrary, the picture presented the public and Congress by Ambassador Durbrow, General Williams and other Administration spokesmen was of continuing progress, virtually miraculous improvement, year in and year out."

Ambassador Elbridge Durbrow and General Williams for example, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the summer of 1959 that Vietnam's internal security was "in no serious danger" and that South Vietnam was in a better position that ever before to cope with an invasion from the North.

The next spring General Williams wrote to Senator Mike Mansfield that President Diem was doing so well that the United States could begin a "phased withdrawal" of American advisers in 1961.

That was the situation that confronted President Kennedy when he took office early in 1961.

"The U.S. had gradually developed a special commitment in South Vietnam," writes the Pentagon analyst charged with explaining the problems facing President Kennedy. "It was certainly not absolutely binding -- but the commitment was there ... "

"Without U.S. support," the analyst says, "Diem almost certainly could not have consolidated his hold on the South during 1955 and 1956.

"Without the threat of U.S. intervention, South Vietnam could not have refused to even discuss the elections called for in 1956 under the Geneva settlement without being immediately overrun by the Vietminh armies.

"Without U.S. aid in the years following, the Diem regime certainly, and an independent South Vietnam almost as certainly, could not have survived ... "

In brief, the analyst concludes, "South Vietnam was essentially the creation of the United States."


Following are the texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, covering events in the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents appear verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

# 1: Report of Ho's Appeals to U.S. in '46 to Support Independence

Cablegram from an American diplomat in Hanoi, identified as Landon, to State Department, Feb. 27, 1946, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

Ho Chi Minh handed me 2 letters addressed to President of USA, China, Russia, and Britain identical copies of which were stated to have been forwarded to other governments named. In 2 letters to Ho Chi Minh request USA as one of United Nations to support idea of Annamese independence according to Philippines example, to examine the case of the Annamese, and to take steps necessary to maintenance of world peace which is being endangered by French efforts to reconquer Indochina. He asserts that Annamese will fight until United Nations interfered in support of Annamese independence. The petition addressed to major United Nations contains:

A. Review of French relations with Japanese where French Indochina allegedly aided Japs:

B. Statement of establishment on 2 September 1945 of PENW Democratic Republic of Viet Minh:

C. Summary of French conquest of Cochin China began 23 Sept 1945 and still incomplete:

D. Outline of accomplishments of Annamese Government in Tonkin including popular elections, abolition of undesirable taxes, expansion of education and resumption as far as possible of normal economic activities:

E. Request to 4 powers: (l) to intervene and stop the war in Indochina in order to mediate fair settlement and (2) to bring the Indochinese issue before the United Nations organization. The petition ends with the statement that Annamese ask for full independence in fact and that in interim while awaiting UNO decision the Annamese will continue to fight the reestablishment of French imperialism. Letters and petition will be transmitted to Department soonest.

# 2: 1952 Policy Statement by U.S. on Goals in Southeast Asia

Statement of Policy by the National Security Council, early 1952, on "United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Southeast Asia." According to a footnote, the document defined Southeast Asia as "the area embracing Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya and Indonesia."


1. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into the communist orbit, and to assist them to develop will and ability to resist communism from within and without and to contribute to the strengthening of the free world.


2. Communist domination, by whatever means, of all Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term, and critically endanger in the longer term, United States security interests.

a. The loss of any of the countries of Southeast Asia to communist aggression would have critical psychological, political and economic consequences. In the absence of effective and timely counteraction, the loss of any single country would probably lead to relatively swift submission to or an alignment with communism by the remaining countries of this group. Furthermore, an alignment with communism of the rest of Southeast Asia and India, and in the longer term, of the Middle East (with the probable exceptions of at least Pakistan and Turkey) would in all probability progressively follow: Such widespread alignment would endanger the stability and security of Europe.

b. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East.

c. Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities. The rice exports of Burma and Thailand are critically important to Malaya, Ceylon and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance to Japan and India, all important areas of free Asia.

d. The loss of Southeast Asia, especially of Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's eventual accommodation to communism.

3. It is therefore imperative that an overt attack on Southeast Asia by the Chinese Communists be vigorously opposed. In order to pursue the military courses of action envisaged in this paper to a favorable conclusion within a reasonable period, it will be necessary to divert military strength from other areas thus reducing our military capability in those areas, with the recognized increased risks involved therein, or to increase our military forces in being, or both.

4. The danger of an overt military attack against Southeast Asia is inherent in the existence of a hostile and aggressive Communist China, but such an attack is less probable than continued communist efforts to achieve domination through subversion. The primary threat to Southeast Asia accordingly arises from the possibility that the situation in Indochina may deteriorate as a result of the weakening of the resolve of, or as a result of the inability of the governments of France and of the Associated States to continue to oppose the Viet Minh rebellion, the military strength of which is being steadily increased by virtue of aid furnished by the Chinese Communist regime and its allies.

5. The successful defense of Tonkin is critical to the retention in non-Communist hands of mainland Southeast Asia. However, should Burma come under communist domination, a communist military advance through Thailand might make Indochina, including Tonkin, militarily indefensible. The execution of the following U.S. courses of action with respect to individual countries of the area may vary depending upon the route of communist advance into Southeast Asia.

6. Actions designed to achieve our objectives in Southeast Asia require sensitive selection and application, on the one hand to assure the optimum efficiency through coordination of measures for the general area, and on the other, to accommodate to the greatest practicable extent to the individual sensibilities of the several governments, social classes and minorities of the area.


Southeast Asia

7. With respect to Southeast Asia, the United States should:

a. Strengthen propaganda and cultural activities, as appropriate, in relation to the area to foster increased alignment of the people with the free world.

b. Continue, as appropriate, programs of economic and technical assistance designed to strengthen the indigenous non-communist governments of the area.

c. Encourage the countries of Southeast Asia to restore and expand their commerce with each other and with the rest of the free world, and stimulate the flow of the raw material resources of the area to the free world.

d. Seek agreement with other nations, including at least France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, for a joint warning to Communist China regarding the grave consequences of Chinese aggression against Southeast Asia, the issuance of such a warning to be contingent upon the prior agreement of France and the UK to participate in the courses of action set forth in paragraphs 10 c, 12, 14 f (1) and (2) and 15 c (1) and (2), and such others as are determined as a result of prior trilateral consultation, in the event such a warning is ignored.

e. Seek UK and French agreement in principle that a naval blockade of Communist China should be included in the minimum courses of action set forth in paragraph 10c below.

f. Continue to encourage and support closer cooperation among the countries of Southeast Asia, and between those countries and the United States, Great Britain, France, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South Asia and Japan.

g. Strengthen, as appropriate, covert operations designed to assist in the achievement of U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia.

h. Continue activities and operations designed to encourage the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia to organize and activate anti-communist groups and activities within their own communities, to resist the effects of parallel pro-communist groups and activities and, generally, to increase their orientation toward the free world.

i. Take measures to promote the coordinated defense of the area, and encourage and support the spirit of resistance among the peoples of Southeast Asia to Chinese Communist aggression and to the encroachments of local communists.

j. Make clear to the American people the importance of Southeast Asia to the security of the United States so that they may be prepared for any of the courses of action proposed herein.


8. With respect to Indochina the United States should:

a. Continue to promote international support for the three Associated States.

b. Continue to assure the French that the U.S. regards the French effort in Indochina as one of great strategic importance in the general international interest rather than in the purely French interest, and as essential to the security of the free world, not only in the Far East but in the Middle East and Europe as well.

c. Continue to assure the French that we are cognizant of the sacrifices entailed for France in carrying out her effort in Indochina and that, without overlooking the principle that France has the primary responsibility in Indochina, we will recommend to the Congress appropriate military, economic and financial aid to France and the Associated States.

d. Continue to cultivate friendly and increasingly cooperative relations with the Governments of France and the Associated States at all levels with a view to maintaining and, if possible, increasing the degree of influence the U.S. can bring to bear on the policies and actions of the French and Indochinese authorities to the end of directing the course of events toward the objectives we seek. Our influence with the French and Associated States should be designed to further those constructive political, economic and social measures which will tend to increase the stability of the Associated States and thus make it possible for the French to reduce the degree of their participation in the military, economic and political affairs of the Associated States.

e. Specifically we should use our influence with France and the Associated States to promote positive political, military, economic and social policies, among which the following are considered essential elements:

(1) Continued recognition and carrying out by France of its primary responsibility for the defense of Indochina.

(2) Further steps by France and the Associated States toward the evolutionary development of the Associated States.

(3) Such reorganization of French administration and representation in Indochina as will be conducive to an increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the Associated States.

(4) Intensive efforts to develop the armies of the Associated States, including independent logistical and administrative services.

(5) The development of more effective and stable Governments in the Associated States.

(6) Land reform, agrarian and industrial credit, sound rice marketing systems, labor development, foreign trade and capital formation.

(7) An aggressive military, political, and psychological program to defeat or seriously reduce the Viet Minh forces.

(8) U.S.-French cooperation in publicizing progressive developments in the foregoing policies in Indochina.

(9) In the absence of large scale Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina, the United States should:

a. Provide increased aid on a high priority basis for the French Union forces without relieving French authorities of their basic military responsibility for the defense of the Associated States in order to:

(1) Assist in developing indigenous armed forces which will eventually be capable of maintaining internal security without assistance from French units.

(2) Assist the French Union forces to maintain progress in the restoration of internal security against the Viet Minh.

(3) Assist the forces of France and the Associated States to defend Indochina against Chinese Communist aggression.

b. In view of the immediate urgency of the situation, involving possible large-scale Chinese Communist intervention, and in order that the United States may be prepared to take whatever action may be appropriate in such circumstances, make the plans necessary to carry out the courses of action indicated in paragraph 10 below.

c. In the event that information and circumstances point to the conclusion that France is no longer prepared to carry the burden in Indochina, or if France presses for an increased sharing of the responsibility for Indochina, whether in the UN or directly with the U.S. Government, oppose a French withdrawal and consult with the French and British concerning further measures to be taken to safeguard the area from communist domination.

10. In the event that it is determined, in consultation with France, that Chinese Communist forces (including volunteers) have overtly intervened in the conflict in Indochina, or are covertly participating to such an extent as to jeopardize retention of the Tonkin Delta area by French Union forces, the United States should take the following measures to assist these forces in preventing the loss of Indochina, to repel the aggression and to restore peace and security in Indochina:

a. Support a request by France or the Associated States for immediate action by the United Nations which would include a UN resolution declaring that Communist China has committed an aggression, recommending that member states take whatever action may be necessary, without geographic limitation, to assist France and the Associated States in meeting the aggression.

b. Whether or not UN action is immediately forthcoming, seek the maximum possible international support for, and participation in, the minimum courses of military action agreed upon by the parties to the joint warning. These minimum courses of action are set forth in subparagraph c immediately below.

c. Carry out the following minimum courses of military action, either under the auspices of the UN or in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom and any other friendly governments:

(1) A resolute defense of Indochina itself to which the United States would provide such air and naval assistance as might be practicable.

(2) Interdiction of Chinese Communist communication lines including those in China.

(3) The United States would expect to provide the major forces for task (2) above; but would expect the UK and France to provide at least token forces therefor and to render such other assistance as is normal between allies, and France to carry the burden of providing, in conjunction with the Associated States, the ground forces for the defense of Indochina.

11. In addition to the courses of action set forth in paragraph 10 above, the United States should take the following military actions as appropriate to the situation:

a. If agreement is reached pursuant to paragraph 7-e, establishment in conjunction with the UK and France of a naval blockade of Communist China.

b. Intensification of covert operations to aid anti-communist guerrilla forces operating against Communist China and to interfere with and disrupt Chinese Communist lines of communication and military supply areas.

c. Utilization, as desirable and feasible, of anti-communist Chinese forces, including Chinese Nationalist forces in military operations in Southeast Asia, Korea, or China proper.

d. Assistance to the British to cover an evacuation from Hong Kong, if required.

e. Evacuation of French Union civil and military personnel from the Tonkin delta, if required.

12. If, subsequent to aggression against Indochina and execution of the minimum necessary courses of action listed in paragraph 10-c above, the United States determines jointly with the UK and France that expanded military action against Communist China is rendered necessary by the situation, the United States should take air and naval action in conjunction with at least France and the U.K. against all suitable military targets in China, avoiding insofar as practicable those targets in areas near the boundaries of the USSR in order not to increase the risk of direct Soviet involvement.

13. In the event the concurrence of the United Kingdom and France to expanded military action against Communist China is not obtained, the United States should consider taking unilateral action.

# 3: Eisenhower Committee's Memo on French Requests for Aid

Excerpts from memorandum for the record, Jan. 30, 1954, by Brig. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel 3d on meeting of President's Special Committee on Indochina.

1. The Special Committee met in Mr. Kyes' office at 3: 30 p.m. 29 January 1954 ....

3. Admiral Radford said he had been in touch with General Ely, French Chief of Staff, through General Valluy. Ten B-26 aircraft are on the way to Indochina this week. These would contribute to filling the French request for aircraft to bring two B-26 squadrons up to a strength of 25 operational aircraft each. However, an additional 12 are needed to fill the full requirement because a total of 22 are needed (12 to fill the annual attrition plus 10 to fill the additional French request). There was some discussion on the seeming differences in requests reaching Washington via Paris and those coming through the MAAG. Subsequently in the meeting it was agreed that the French should be informed that the U.S. would act only on requests which had been approved by General O'Daniel after General O'Daniel was set up in Indochina.

4. Admiral Radford indicated that to fill the entire requirement for 22 B-26's on an urgent basis would mean taking some of them from U.S. operational squadrons in the Far East, but this could be done. The aircraft would not all have "zero" maintenance time on them.

5. As to the additional French request for 25 B-26's to equip a third squadron, it was decided that final decision to furnish them should await the return of General O'Daniel. However, the Air Force has been alerted that they may have to be furnished on short notice.

6. As to the provision of a small "dirigible," it was decided to inform the French that this could not be furnished.

7. Regarding the French request for 400 mechanics trained in maintenance of B-26 and C-47 aircraft, there was considerable discussion. Admiral Radford said he had informed General Ely, through General Valluy, that the U.S. does not believe the French have exhausted all efforts to get French civilian maintenance crews. He suggested the French try to find them through "Air France" Mr. Kyes mentioned the possibility of obtaining French personnel from their eight aircraft factories or from the big Chateauroux maintenance base where the U.S. employed French mechanics. General Smith inquired about the possibility of lowering French NATO commitments to enable transfer of French military mechanics. Admiral Radford said General Valluy had informed him the French Staff have carefully considered the idea but the French Air Force does not have enough military mechanics trained in B-26 or C-47 maintenance to fill the requirement. Therefore, there would be such a delay while their military mechanics were being trained on these aircraft that the urgent requirement could not be met. He had also said that the employment of French civilian mechanics presented a difficult problem in security clearance.

8. General Smith recommended that the U.S. send 200 U.S. Air Force mechanics to MAAG, Indochina, and tell the French to provide the rest. Admiral Radford said this could be done and that the Air Force is, somewhat reluctantly, making plans to this end. He had let the French know that if American mechanics were sent they must be used only on air bases which were entirely secure from capture. General Smith wondered, in light of additional French requests, if the Committee should not consider sending the full 400 mechanics.

9. Mr. Kyes questioned if sending 200 military mechanics would not so commit the U.S. to support the French that we must be prepared eventually for complete intervention, including use of U.S. combat forces. General Smith said he did not think this would result -- we were sending maintenance forces not ground forces. He felt, however, that the importance of winning in Indochina was so great that if worst came to the worst he personally would favor intervention with U.S. air and naval forces -- not ground forces. Admiral Radford agreed. Mr. Kyes felt this consideration was so important that it should be put to the highest level. The President himself should decide. General Smith agreed. Mr. Allen Dulles wondered if our preoccupation with helping to win the battle at Dien Bien Phu was so great that we were not going to bargain with the French as we supplied their most urgent needs. Mr. Kyes said this was an aspect of the question he was resisting, Admiral Radford read from a cable just received from General O'Daniel, which indicated General Navarre had been most cordial to General O'Daniel at their meeting and had indicated he was pleased with the concept of U.S. liaison officers being assigned to his general headquarters and to the training command. General Navarre and General O'Daniel agreed to try to work out a maximum of collaboration at the military level.

10. Later in the meeting, Mr. Allen Dulles raised the question as to sending the CAP pilots the French had once requested. It was agreed that the French apparently wanted them now, that they should be sent, and CIA should arrange for the necessary negotiations with the French in Indochina to take care of it.

11. Mr. Kyes said that if we meet the French urgent demands they should be tied to two things: first, the achievement of maximum collaboration with the French in training and strategy, and secondly, the strengthening of General O'Daniel's hand in every way possible. General Smith agreed and felt we should reinforce General O'Daniel's position not only with the French in Indochina but also at the highest level in Paris ....

12. Summary of Action Agreed Regarding Urgent French Requests

It was agreed:

a. To provide 200 uniformed U.S. Air Force mechanics who would be assigned as an augmentation to MAAG, Indochina, these mechanics to be provided only on the understanding that they would be used at bases where they would be secure from capture and would not be exposed to combat.

c. To send the CAP pilots, with CIA arranging necessary negotiations.

d. Not to provide a "dirigible."

e. To await General O'Daniel's return to Washington before making a decision on the other French requests. Efforts should continue to get the French to contribute a maximum number of mechanics.

It was further agreed that General Smith would clear these recommended actions with the President.

13. The next item discussed was the status of General O'Danieil Mr. Kyes said General Trapnell, the present Chief of MAAG, is being replaced at the normal expiration of his tour. General Dabney had been chosen to replace General Trapnell and is about to leave for Indochina. Admiral Radford pointed out that General O'Daniel could be made Chief of MAAG without any further clearance with the French Government. General Smith said this would be all right but should not preclude further action to increase the position of General O'Daniel. General Erskine pointed out that the MAAG in Indochina is not a "military mission" but only an administrative group concerned with the provision of MDAP equipment. He thought the MAAG status should be raised to that of a mission which could help in training. It was agreed that General a'Daniel should probably be first assigned as Chief of MAAG and that, for this reason, General Dabney's departure for Indochina should be temporarily held up. General Dabney should, however, go to Indochina to assist General O'Daniel by heading up the present MAAG functions. Admiral Davis was requested to assure that General Dabney did not depart until further instructions were given.

20. Mr. Allen Dulles inquired if an unconventional warfare officer, specifically Colonel Lansdale, could not be added to the group of five liaison officers to which General Navarre had agreed. Admiral Radford thought this might be done and at any rate Colonel Lansdale could immediately be attached to the MAAG, but he wondered if it would not be best for Colonel Lansdale to await General a'Daniel's return before going to Indochina. In this way, Colonel Lansdale could help the working group in its revision of General Erskine's paper. This was agreeable to Mr. Allen Dulles.

21. Present at the meeting were:

Department of Defense -- Mr. Kyes, Admiral Radford, Admiral Davis, General Erskine, Mr. Godel, B/G Bonesteel, Colonel Alden.

Department of State -- General Smith, Mr. Robertson.

CIA -- Mr. Allen Dulles, General Cabell, Mr. Aurell, Colonel Lansdale.

# 4: '54 Report by Special Committee on the Threat of Communism

Excerpts from Part 1I of the Special Committee's Report on Southeast Asia, April 5,1954. Part I was not made available with it.


A. The special Committee considers that these factors reinforce the necessity of assuring that Indo-China remain in the non-Communist bloc, and believes that defeat of the Viet Minh in Indo-China is essential if the spread of Communist influence in Southeast Asia is to be halted.

B. Regardless of the outcome of military operations in Indo- China and without compromising in any way' the overwhelming strategic importance of the Associated States to the Western position in the area, the U.S. should take all affirmative and practical steps, with or without its European allies, to provide tangible evidence of Western strength and determination to defeat Communism; to demonstrate that ultimate victory will be won by the free world; and to secure the affirmative association of Southeast Asian states with these purposes.

C. That for these purposes the Western position in Indo-China must be maintained and improved by a military victory.

D. That without compromise to C, above, the U.S. should in all prudence reinforce the remainder of Southeast Asia, including the land areas of Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.


A. The Special Committee wishes to reaffirm the following recommendations which are made in NCS 5405, the Special Committee Report concerning military operations in Indo-China, and the position paper of the Special Committee, concurred in by the Department of Defense, concerning U.S. courses of action and policies with respect to the Geneva Conference:

(1) It be U.S. policy to accept nothing short of a military victory in Indo-China.

(2) It be the U.S. position to obtain French support of this position; and that failing this, the U.S. actively oppose any negotiated settlement in Indo-China at Geneva.

(3) It be the U.S. position in event of failure of (2) above to initiate immediate steps with the governments of the Associated States aimed toward the continuation of the war in Indo-China, to include active U.S. participation and without French support should that be necessary.

(4) Regardless of whether or not the U.S. is successful in obtaining French support for the active U.S. participation called for in (3) above, every effort should be made to undertake this active participation in concert with other interested nations.

B. The Special Committee also considers that all possible political and economic pressure on France must be exerted as the obvious initial course of action to reinforce the French will to continue operatings [sic] in Indo-China. The Special Committee recognizes that this course of action will jeopardize the existing French Cabinet, may be unpopular among the French public, and may be considered as endangering present U. S. policy with respect to EDC. The Committee nevertheless considers that the free world strategic position, not only in Southeast Asia but in Europe and the Middle East as well, is such as to require the most extraordinary efforts to prevent Communist domination of Southeast Asia. The Committee considers that firm and resolute action now in this regard may well be the key to a solution of the entire problem posed by France in the free world community of nations.

C. In order to make the maximum contribution to the free world strength in Southeast Asia, and regardless of the outcome of military operations currently in progress in Indo-China, the U. S. should, in all prudence, take the following courses of action in addition to those set forth in NSC 5405 and in Part I of the Special Committee Report:

Political and Military:

(1) Ensure that there be initiated no cease-fire in Indo-China prior to victory whether that be by successful military action or clear concession of defeat by the Communists.

Action: State, CIA

(2) Extraordinary and unilateral, as well as multi-national, efforts should be undertaken to give vitality in Southeast Asia to the concept that Communist imperialism is a transcending threat to each of the Southeast Asian states. These efforts should be so undertaken as to appear through local initiative rather than as a result of U.S. or UK, or French instigation.


(3) It should be U.S. policy to develop within the UN Charter a Far Eastern regional arrangement subscribed and underwritten by the major European powers with interests in the Pacific.

a. Full accomplishment of such an arrangement can only be developed in the long term and should therefore be preceded by the development, through indigenous sources, or regional economic and cultural agreements between the several Southeast Asian countries and later with Japan. Such agreements might take a form similar to that of OEEC in Europe.

Action: State, CIA, FOA

b. Upon the basis of such agreements, the U.S. should actively but unobtrusively seek their expansion into mutual defense agreements and should for this purpose be prepared to underwrite such agreements with military and economic aid and should [rest unavailable].

D. The courses of action outlined above are considered as mandatory regardless of the outcome of military operations in Indo-China.

(1) If Indo-China is held they are needed to build up strength and resistance to Communism in the entire area.

(2) If Indo-China is lost they are essential as partial steps:

a. To delay as long as possible the extension of Communist domination throughout the Far East, or

b. In conjunction with offensive operations to retake Indo- China from the Communists.

(3) Should Indo-China be lost it is clear to the Special Committee that the involvement of U.S. resources either in an attempt to stop the further spread of Communism in the Far East, (which is bound, except in terms of the most extensive military and political effort, to be futile) or to initiate offensive operations to retake and reorient Indo-China, (which would involve a major military campaign), will greatly exceed those needed to hold Indo-China before it falls.

(4) Furthermore, either of these undertakings (in the light of the major setback to U.S. national policy involved in the loss of Indo-China) would entail as an urgent prerequisite the restoration of Asian morale and confidence in U.S. policy which will have reached an unprecedentedly low level in the area.

(5) Each of these courses of action would involve greater risk of war with Communist China, and possibly the Soviet Union, than timely preventive action taken under more favorable circumstances before Indo-China is lost.

# 5: Dillon Cable to Dulles on Appeal for Air Support at Dienbienphu

Cablegram from Douglas Dillon, United States Ambassador to France, to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles on April 5, 1954.

URGENT. I was called at 11 o'clock Sunday night and asked to come immediately to Matignon where a restricted Cabinet meeting was in progress. On arrival Bidault received me in Laniel's office and was joined in a few minutes by Laniel. They said that immediate armed intervention of U.S. carrier aircraft at Dien Bien Phu is now necessary to save the situation.

Navarre reports situation there now in state of precarious equilibrium and that both sides are doing best to reinforce -- Viet Minh are bringing up last available reinforcements which will way outnumber any reinforcing French can do by parachute drops. Renewal of assault by reinforced Viet Minh probable by middle or end of week. Without help by then fate of Dien Bien Phu will probably be sealed.

Ely brought back report from Washington that Radford gave him his personal (repeat personal) assurance that if situation at Dien Bien Phu required U.S. naval air support he would do his best to obtain such help from U.S. Government. Because of this information from Radford as reported by Ely, French Government now asking for U.S. carrier aircraft support at Dien Bien Phu. Navarre feels that a relatively minor U.S. effort could turn the tide but naturally hopes for as much help as possible. French report Chinese intervention in Indochina already fully established as follows:

First. Fourteen technical advisors at Giap headquarters plus numerous others at division level. All under command of Chinese Communist General Ly Chen-hou who is stationed at Giap headquarters.

Second. Special telephone lines installed maintained and operated by Chinese personnel.

Third. Forty 37 mm. anti-aircraft guns radar-controlled at Dien Bien Phu. These guns operated by Chinese and evidently are from Korea. These AA guns are now shooting through clouds to bring down French aircraft.

Fourth. One thousand supply trucks of which 500 have arrived since 1 March, all driven by Chinese army personnel.

Fifth. Substantial material help in guns, shells, etc., as is well known.

Bidault said that French Chief of Air Staff wished U.S. be informed that U.S. air intervention at Dien Bien Phu could lead to Chinese Communist air attack on delta airfields. Nevertheless, government was making request for aid.

Bidault closed by saying that for good or evil the fate of Southeast Asia now rested on Dien Bien Phu. He said that Geneva would be won or lost depending on outcome at Dien Bien Phu. This was reason for French request for this very serious action on our part.

He then emphasized necessity for speed in view of renewed attack which is expected before end of week. He thanked U.S. for prompt action on airlift for French paratroops. He then said that he had received Dulles' proposal for Southeast Asian coalition, and that he would answer as soon as possible later in week as restricted Cabinet session not competent to make this decision.

New Subject. I passed on Norstad's concern that news of airlift (DEPTEL 3470, April 3) might leak as planes assembled. PI even was called into room. He expressed extreme concern as any leak would lead to earlier Viet Minh attack. He said at all costs operation must be camouflaged as training exercise until troops have arrived. He is preparing them as rapidly as possible and they will be ready to leave in a week. Bidault and Laniel pressed him to hurry up departure date of troops and he said he would do his utmost.
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#6: Dulles Cable Barring Intervention

Cablegram from Secretary Dulles to Ambassador Dillon in Paris, April 5, 1954.

As I personally explained to Ely in presence of Radford, it is not (rpt not) possible for U.S. to commit belligerent acts in Indochina without full political understanding with France and other countries. In addition, Congressional action would be required. After conference at highest level, I must confirm this position. U.S. is doing everything possible as indicated my 5175 to prepare public, Congressional and Constitutional basis for united action in Indochina. However, such action is impossible except on coalition basis with active British Commonwealth participation. Meanwhile U.S. prepared, as has been demonstrated, to do everything short of belligerency.

FYI U.S. cannot and will not be put in position of alone salvaging British Commonwealth interests in Malaya, Australia and New Zealand. This matter now under discussion with UK at highest level.

#7: Dillon Reply on French Reaction

Cablegram from Ambassador Dillon to Secretary Dulles, April 5, 1954.

I delivered message DEPTEL 3482 to Bidault Monday evening. He asked me to tell Secretary that he personally could well understand position US Government and would pass on your answer to Laniel.

He asked me to say once more that unfortunately the time for formulating coalitions has passed as the fate of Indochina will be decided in the next ten days at Dien-Bien-Phu. As I left he said that even though French must fight alone they would continue fighting and he prayed God they would be successful.

#8: Memo of Eisenhower-Dulles Talk on the French Cease-Fire Plan

Memorandum by Robert Cutler, special assistant TO President Dwight D. Eisenhower, May 7, 1954.

At a meeting in the President's office this morning with Dulles, three topics were discussed.

1. Whether the President should approve paragraph 1b of the tentative Record of Action of the 5/6/54 NSC meeting, which covers the proposed answer to the Eden proposal. The Secretary of State thought the text was correct. Wilson and Radford preferred the draft message to Smith for Eden prepared yesterday by MacArthur and Captain Anderson, and cleared by the JCS, which included in the Five Power Staff Agency Thailand and the Philippines. Radford thinks that the Agency (which has hitherto been not disclosed in SEA) has really completed its military planning; that if it is enlarged by top level personnel, its actions will be necessarily open to the world; that therefore some Southeast Asian countries should be included in it, and he fears Eden's proposal as an intended delaying action.

The President approved the text of paragraph 1b but suggested that Smith's reply to Eden's proposal should make clear the following:

1. Five Power Staff Agency, alone or with other nations, is not to the United States a satisfactory substitute for a broad political coalition which will include the Southeast Asian countries which are to be defended.

2. Five Power Staff Agency examination is acceptable to see how these nations can give military aid to the Southeast Asian countries in the cooperative defense effort.

3. The United States will not agree to a "white man's party" to determine the problems of the Southeast Asian nations.

I was instructed to advise Wilson and Radford of the above, and have done so.

2. The President went over the draft of the speech which Dulles is going to make tonight, making quite a few suggestions and changes in text. He thought additionally the speech should include some easy to understand slogans, such as "The U.S. will never start a war," "The U.S. will not go to war without Congressional authority," "The U.S., as always, is trying to organize cooperative efforts to sustain the peace."

3. With reference to the cease-fire proposal transmitted by Bidault to the French cabinet, I read the following, as views principally of military members of the Planning Board, expressed in their yesterday afternoon meeting:

1. U.S. should not support the Bidault proposal.

2. Reasons for this position:

a. The mere proposal of the cease-fire at the Geneva Conference would destroy the will to fight of French forces and make fence-sitters jump to Vietminh side.

b. The Communists would evade covertly cease-fire controls.

3. The U.S. should (as a last act to save IndoChina) propose to France that if the following 5 conditions are met, the U.S. will go to Congress for authority to intervene with combat forces:

a. grant of genuine freedom for Associated States

b. U.S. take major responsibility for training indigenous forces

c. U.S. share responsibility for military planning

d. French forces to stay in the fight and no requirement of replacement of U.S. forces

(e. Action under UN auspices?)

This offer to be made known simultaneously to the other members of the proposed regional grouping (UK, Australia, NZ, Thailand, Associated States, Philippines) in order to enlist their participation.

I then summarized possible objections to making the above proposal to the French:

a. No French Government is now competent to act in a lasting way.

b. There is no indication France wants to "internationalize" the conflict.

c. The U.S. proposal would be made without the prior assurance of a regional grouping of SEA states, a precondition of Congress; although this point might be added as another condition to the proposal.

d. U.S. would be "bailing out colonial France" in the eyes of the world.

e. U.S. cannot undertake alone to save every situation of trouble.

I concluded that some PB members felt that it had never been made clear to the French that the U.S. was willing to ask for Congressional authority, if certain fundamental preconditions were met; that these matters had only been hinted at, and that the record of history should be clear as to the U.S. position. Dulles was interested to know the President's views, because he is talking with Ambassador Bonnet this afternoon. He indicated that he would mention these matters to Bonnet, perhaps making a more broad hint than heretofore. He would not circulate any formal paper to Bonnet, or to anyone else.

The President referred to the proposition advanced by Governor Stassen at the April 29 Council Meeting as not having been thoroughly thought out. He said that he had been trying to get France to "internationalize" matters for a long time, and they are not willing to do so. If it were thought advisable at this time to point out to the French the essential preconditions to the U.S. asking for Congressional authority to intervene, then it should also be made clear to the French as an additional precondition that the U.S. would never intervene alone, that there must be an invitation by the indigenous people, and that there must be some kind of regional and collective action.

I understand that Dulles will decide the extent to which he cares to follow this line with Ambassador Bonnet. This discussion may afford Dulles guidance in replying to Smith's request about a U.S. alternative to support the Bidault proposal, but there really was no decision as to the U.S. attitude toward the cease-fire proposal itself.

#9: Eisenhower's Instructions to U.S. Envoy at Geneva Talks

Cablegram from Secretary of State Dulles to Under Secretary Walter Bedell Smith, May 12, 1954.

The following basic instructions, which have been approved by the President, and which are in confirmation of those already given you orally, will guide you, as head of the United States Delegation, in your participation in the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference.

1. The presence of a United States representative during the discussion at the Geneva Conference of "the problem of restoring peace in Indochina" rests on the Berlin Agreement of February 18, 1954. Under that agreement the U.S., UK, France, and USSR agreed that the four of them plus other interested states should be invited to a conference at Geneva on April 26 "for the purpose of reaching a peaceful settlement of the Korean question" and agreed further, that "the problem of restoring peace in Indochina" would also be discussed at Geneva by the four powers represented at Berlin, and Communist China and other interested states.

2. You will not deal with the delegates of the Chinese Communist regime, or any other regime not now diplomatically recognized by the United States, on any terms which imply political recognition or which concede to that regime any status other than that of a regime with which it is necessary to deal on a de facto basis in order to end aggression or the threat of aggression, and to obtain peace.

3. The position of the United States in the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference is that of an interested nation which, however, is neither a belligerent nor a principal in the negotiation.

4. The United States is participating in the Indochina phase of the Conference in order thereby to assist in arriving at decisions which will help the nations of that area peacefully to enjoy territorial integrity and political independence under stable and free governments with the opportunity to expand their economies, to realize their legitimate national aspirations, and to develop security through individual and collective defense against aggression, from within or without. This implies that these people should not be amalgamated into the Communist bloc of imperialistic dictatorship.

5. The United States is not prepared to give its express or implied approval to any cease-fire, armistice, or other settlement which would have the effect of subverting the existing lawful governments of the three aforementioned states or of permanently impairing their territorial integrity or of placing in jeopardy the forces of the French Union in Indochina, or which otherwise contravened the principles stated in (4) above.

6. You should, insofar as is compatible with these instructions, cooperate with the Delegation of France and with the Delegations of other friendly participants in this phase of the Conference.

7. If in your judgment continued participation in the Indochina phase of the Conference appears likely to involve the United States in a result inconsistent with its policy, as stated above, you should immediately so inform your Government, recommending either withdrawal or the limitation of the U.S. role to that of an observer. If the situation develops such that, in your opinion, either of such actions is essential under the circumstances and time is lacking for consultation with Washington, you may act in your discretion.

8. You are authorized to inform other delegations at Geneva of these instructions.

#10: 1954 Study by the Joint Chiefs on Possible U.S. Intervention

Excerpts from memorandum from Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, May 26, 1954, on "Studies With Respect 10 Possible U.S. Action Regarding Indochina."

1. Reference is made to the memorandum by the Acting Secretary of Defense, dated 18 May 1954, subject as above, wherein the Joint Chiefs of Staff were requested to prepare certain studies, and agreed outline answers to certain questions relating thereto, for discussion with the Acting Secretary of Defense on or before 24 May, and for subsequent submission to the National Security Council (NSC).

2 a. The Studies requested by the Acting Secretary of Defense were developed within the parameters prescribed in the memorandum by the Executive Secretary, NSC, dated 18 May 1954, subject as above. This memorandum is interpreted as assuming no concurrent involvement in Korea. This assumption may be quite unrealistic and lead to malemployment of available forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to point out their belief that, from the point of view of the United States, with reference to the Far East as a whole, Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token U.S. armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities. The principal sources of Viet Minh military supply lie outside Indochina. The destruction or neutralization of these sources in China proper would materially reduce the French military problems in Indochina.

b. In connection with the above, it may be readily anticipated that, upon Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina, the French would promptly request the immediate deployment of U.S. ground and air forces, additional naval forces, and a considerable increase in MDAF armament and equipment. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated their belief that committing to the Indochina conflict naval forces in excess of a Fast Carrier Task Force and supporting forces as necessary in accordance with the developments in the situation, of basing substantial air forces in Indochina, will involve maldeployment of forces and reduce readiness to meet probable Chinese Communist reaction elsewhere in the Far East. Simultaneously, it is necessary to keep in mind the considerable Allied military potential available in the Korea- Japan-Okinawa area.

c. In light of the above, it is clear that the denial of these forces to Indochina could result in a schism between the United States and France unless they were employed elsewhere. However, it should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have plans, both approved and under consideration, which provide for the employment of these forces in combat operations outside Indochina. Nevertheless, it is desired to repeat that this particular report is responsive to the question of U.S. intervention in Indochina only.


3. Strategic Concept and Plan of Operation

Seek to create conditions through the destruction of effective Communist forces and their means for support in the Indochina action and by reducing Chinese Communist capability for further aggression, under which Associated States forces could assume responsibility for the defense of Indochina. In the light of this concept the major courses of action would be as follows:

a. Employing atomic weapons, whenever advantageous, as well as other weapons, conduct offensive air operations against selected military targets in Indochina and against those military targets in China, Hainan, and other Communist-held offshore islands which are being used by the Communists in direct support of their operations, or which threaten the security of U.S. and allied forces in the area.

b. Simultaneously, French Union Forces, augmented by U.S. naval, and air forces, would exploit by coordinated ground, naval, and air action such successes as may be gained as a result of the aforementioned air operations in order to destroy enemy forces in Indochina.

c. Conduct coordinated ground, naval, and air action to destroy enemy forces in Indochina.

d. In the light of circumstances prevailing at the time, and subject to an evaluation of the results of operations conducted under subparagraphs a and b above, be prepared to take further action against Communist China to reduce its war-making capability, such as:

(1) Destruction of additional selected military targets. In connection with these additional targets, such action requires an enlarged but highly selective atomic offensive in addition to attacks employing other weapons systems.

(2) Blockade of the China coast. This might be instituted progressively from the outset.

(3) Seizure or neutralization of Hainan Island.

(4) Operations against the Chinese mainland by Chinese Nationalist forces ....


9. Strategic Concept and Plan of Action

Seek to create conditions by destroying effective Communist forces in Indochina, under which the Associated States Forces could assume responsibility for the defense of Indochina. In the light of this concept, the major courses of action which would be undertaken are as follows:

a. Conduct air operations in support of allied forces in Indochina. The employment of atomic weapons is contemplated in the event that such course appears militarily advantageous.

b. Simultaneously, French Union Forces augmented by such armed forces of the Philippines and Thailand as may be committed would, in coordination with U.S. naval and Air Force forces, conduct coordinated ground, naval and air action to destroy enemy forces in Indochina ....

#11: Cable by Dulles on Negotiations at Geneva on Vietnam Elections

Cablegram by Secretary Dulles to United States Embassy in Paris with copies to the United States Embassies in London and Saigon and to the United States Consul General in Geneva for Under Secretary Bedell Smith, July 7, 1954.

We see no real conflict between paragraphs 4 and 5 U.S.-UK terms. We realize of course that even agreement which appears to meet all seven points cannot constitute guarantee that Indochina will not one day pass into Communist hands. Seven points are intended provide best chance that this shall not happen. This will require observance of criteria not merely in the letter but in the spirit. Thus since undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh this makes it all more important they should be only held as long after cease-fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give democratic elements best chance. We believe important that no date should be set now and especially that no conditions should be accepted by French which would have direct or indirect effect of preventing effective international supervision of agreement ensuring political as well as military guarantees. Also note paragraph 3 of President and Prime Minister joint declaration of June 29 regarding QTE unity through free elections supervised by the UN UNQTE.

Our interpretation of willingness QTE respect UNQTE agreement which might be reached is that we would not (repeat not) oppose a settlement which conformed to seven points contained Deptel 4853. It does not (repeat not) of course mean we would guarantee such settlement or that we would necessarily support it publicly. We consider QTE respect UNQTE as strong a word as we can possibly employ in the circumstances to indicate our position with respect to such arrangements as French may evolve along lines points contained DEPTEL 4853. QTE respect UNQTE would also mean that we would not seek directly or indirectly to upset settlement by force.

You may convey substance above to French.

#12: Chinese Communists' Position on a Neutralized Indochina

Cablegram from Under Secretary of State Bedell Smith at Geneva to Secretary Dulles, July 18, 1954.

Following despatch given us in advance by Topping of Associated Press apparently represents official Chinese Communist position and was given Topping in order that we would become aware of it. It begins:


The Communist bloc has demanded that the United States guarantee the partition peace plan for Indochina and join in an agreement to neutralize the whole country, a responsible Chinese Communist informant said today.

The informant, who reflects the views of Red China Premier Chou En-lai, said the Communists are hopeful of a cease-fire agreement by next Tuesday's deadline if the Western powers agree to 'bar all foreign military bases from Indochina and keep the three member states out of any military bloc.'

The informant said the Communists are pressing for the stamp of American approval on the armistice agreement -- already okayed in principle by Britain and France -- which would divide Vietnam between Communists leader Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh and Bao Dai's pro-Western regime.

'We believe that the U.S. as a member of the conference should and is obligated to subscribe to and guarantee any settlement. Morally, there is no reason for the U.S. to avoid this obligation.'

But the informant did not (repeat not) rule out the chance of an Indochina cease-fire even if the U.S. refuses to okay the armistice agreement.

The Eisenhower administration has told France and Britain that they can go ahead with their plan for an Indochina settlement based on partition of Vietnam. But Washington has made it clear that it is not (repeat not) ready to associate itself formally with the plan which would sanction putting millions of Vietnamese under Red rule.

The Communist informant said the 'crucial issue' now in the Geneva peace negotiations revolves around whether the Western powers will agree effectively to neutralize Indochina.

'Refusal to join in such a guarantee,' the informant said, 'could seriously deter a final settlement. On other important points in the negotiations we are in agreement or close to it. We are hopeful and we believe that there is time to reach a settlement by July 20.'

French Premier Pierre Mendes-France has promised to resign with his Cabinet if he fails to end the bloody eight-year-old war by next Tuesday. Fall of the French Government probably would doom the Geneva negotiations. The informant declared that American efforts to organize a Southeast Asia Treaty organization (SEATO) is a 'threat to any possible Indochina agreement.'

'Success or failure of the Geneva Conference may depend on the attitude of the American delegation in this regard,' he added.


The above seems to me extremely significant, particularly in view of the fact that in my discussion with Eden last night he expressed pessimism, which he said was now shared for the first time by Krishna Menon. Latter had begun to feel, as I do, that Molotov wishes to force Mendes-France's resignation. Eden remarked that Molotov had now become the most difficult and intransigent member of Communist delegation. You will note obvious intention to place on shoulders of U.S. responsibility for failure of Geneva Conference and fall of French Government if this occurs.

Molotov is insisting on a meeting this afternoon which French and British are trying to make highly restricted as they are apprehensive of what may occur. If such a meeting is held and if demands are made for U.S. association in any agreement, I will simply say that in the event a reasonable settlement is arrived at which U.S. could "respect", U.S. will probably issue a unilateral statement of its own position. If question of participation Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in security pact is raised, I will reply that this depends on outcome of conference.

Eden has already told Molotov that security pact is inevitable, that he himself favored it some time ago and that he would not (repeat not) withdraw from that position, but he made the mistake of saying that no consideration had been given to inclusion of Laos and Cambodia.

This final gambit is going to be extremely difficult to play and I do not (repeat not) now see the moves clearly. However, my opinion as expressed to you before leaving, i.e., that Molotov will gain more by bringing down Mendes Government than by a settlement, has grown stronger.

#13: Details on Chinese Informant

Cablegram from Under Secretary Bedell Smith at Geneva to Secretary Dulles, July 19, 1954.

Topping has supplied in confidence following background information concerning his story on views of Chinese Communist delegation.

He stated his informant was Huang Hua, whom he has known for many years. Interview was at Huang's initiative, was called on short notice, and was conducted in extremely serious manner without propaganda harangues.

Topping said he had reported Huang's statement fully in his story but had obtained number of "visual impressions" during interview. When Huang spoke of possibility American bases in Indochina or anti-Communist pact in Southeast Asia, he became very agitated, his hands shook, and his usually excellent English broke down, forcing him to work through interpreter. Huang also spoke seriously and with apparent sincerity concerning his belief that I have returned to Geneva to prevent settlement. Topping believes Chinese Communists convinced Americans made deal with French during Paris talks on basis of which Mendes-France has raised price of settlement.

#14: "Final Declaration" at Geneva Conference and U.S. Statement Renouncing Use of Force

Following are the texts of the "final declaration" signed by France and the Vietminh at the end of the Geneva conference in July, 1954, and of the statement of United States policy delivered at the concluding session by Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith. The "final declaration," agreement also constitutes the Geneva accords on Vietnam.


FINAL DECLARATION, dated the 21st July, 1954, of the Geneva Conference on the problem of restoring peace in IndoChina, in which the representatives of Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, France, Laos, the People's Republic of China, the State of Viet-Nam, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America took part.

1. The Conference takes note of the agreements ending hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam and organizing international control and the supervision of the execution of the provisions of these agreements.

2. The Conference expresses satisfaction at the ending of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam; the Conference expresses its conviction that the execution of the provisions set out in the present declaration and in the agreements on the cessation of hostilities will permit Cambodia, Laos, and Viet-Nam henceforth to play their part, in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of nations.

3. The Conference takes note of the declarations made by the Governments of Cambodia and of Laos of their intention to adopt measures permitting all citizens to take their place in the national community, in particular by participating in the next general elections, which, in conformity with the constitution of each of these countries, shall take place in the course of the year 1955, by secret ballot and in conditions of respect for fundamental freedoms.

4. The Conference takes note of the clauses in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Viet-Nam prohibiting the introduction into Viet-Nam of foreign troops and military personnel as well as of all kinds of arms and munitions. The Conference also takes note of the declarations made by the Governments of Cambodia and Laos of their resolution not to request foreign aid, whether in war material, in personnel or in instructors except for the purpose of the effective defense of their territory and, in the case of Laos, to the extent defined by the agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Laos.

5. The Conference takes note of the clauses in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Viet-Nam to the effect that no military base under the control of a foreign State may be established in the regrouping zones of the two parties, the latter having the obligation to see that the zones allotted to them shall not constitute part of any military alliance and shall not be utilized for the resumption of hostilities or in the service of an aggressive policy. The Conference also takes note of the declarations of the Governments of Cambodia and Laos to the effect that they will not join in any agreement with other States if this agreement includes the obligation to participate in a military alliance not in conformity with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations or, in the case of Laos, with the principles of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Laos or, so long as their security is not threatened, the obligation not to establish bases on Cambodia or Laotian territory for the military forces of foreign powers.

6. The Conference recognizes that the essential purpose of the agreement relating to Viet-Nam is to settle military questions with a view to ending hostilities and that the military demarcation line is provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary. The Conference expresses its conviction that the execution of the provisions set out in the present declaration and in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities creates the necessary basis for the achievement in the near future of a political settlement in Viet-Nam.

7. The Conference declares that, so far as Viet-Nam is concerned, the settlement of political problems, effected on the basis of respect for the principles of independence, unity and territorial integrity, shall permit the Viet-Namese people to enjoy the fundamental freedoms, guaranteed by democratic institutions established as a result of free general elections by secret ballot. In order to ensure that sufficient progress in the restoration of peace has been made, and that all the necessary conditions obtain for free expression of the national will, general elections shall be held in July 1956, under the supervision of an international commission composed of representatives of the Member States of the International Supervisory Commission, referred to in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities. Consultations will be held on this subject between the competent representative authorities of the two zones from 20 July 1955 onwards.

8. The provisions of the agreements on the cessation of hostilities intended to ensure the protection of individuals and of property must be most strictly applied and must, in particular, allow everyone in Viet-Nam to decide freely in which zone he wishes to live.

9. The competent representative authorities of the Northern and Southern zones of Viet-Nam, as well as the authorities of Laos and Cambodia, must not permit any individual or collective reprisals against persons who have collaborated in any way with one of the parties during the war, or against members of such persons' families.

10. The Conference takes note of the declaration of the Government of the French Republic to the effect that it is ready to withdraw its troops from the territory of Cambodia, Laos, and Viet-Nam, at the requests of the Governments concerned and within periods which shall be fixed by agreement between the parties except in the cases where, by agreement between the two parties, a certain number of French troops shall remain at specified points and for a specified time.

11. The Conference takes note of the declaration of the French Government to the effect that for the settlement of all the problems connected with the re-establishment and consolidation of peace in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, the French Government will proceed from the principle of respect for the independence and sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam.

12. In their relations with Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, each member of the Geneva Conference undertakes to respect the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and the territorial integrity of the above-mentioned states, and to refrain from any interference in their internal affairs.

13. The members of the Conference agree to consult one another on any question which may be referred to them by the International Supervisory Commission, in order to study such measures as may prove necessary to ensure that the agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam are respected.


As I stated on July 18, my Government is not prepared to join in a declaration by the Conference such as is submitted. However, the United States makes this unilateral declaration of its position in these matters:

"The Government of the United States being resolved to devote its efforts to the strengthening of peace in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations takes note of the agreements concluded at Geneva on July 20 and 21, 1954 between (a) The Franco-Laotian Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam; (b) the Royal Khmer Army Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam; (c ) Franco-Vietnamese Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam and of paragraphs 1 to 12 inclusive of the declaration presented to the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954 declares with regard to the aforesaid agreements and paragraphs that (i) it will refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them, in accordance with Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with the obligation of members to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force; and (ii) it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the aforesaid agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security.

"In connection with the statement in the declaration concerning free elections in Viet-Nam my Government wishes to make clear its position which it has expressed in a declaration made in Washington on June 29, 1954, as follows:

" 'In the case of nations now divided against their will, we shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly.'

"With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Viet-Nam, the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in an arrangement which would hinder this. Nothing in its declaration just made is intended to or does indicate any departure from this traditional position.

"We share the hope that the agreements will permit Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam to play their part, in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of nations, and will enable the peoples of that area to determine their own future."
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:16 am


#15: Lansdale Team's Report on Covert Saigon Mission in '54 and '55

Following are excerpts from the report of the Saigon Military Mission, an American team headed by Edward G. Lansdale, covering its activities in the 1954-55 period. The report accompanies the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, which cites it without identifying the author or date. The excerpts appear verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.


. . . This is the condensed account of one year in the operations of a "cold war" combat team, written by the team itself in the field, little by little in moments taken as the members could. The team is known as the Saigon Military Mission. The field is Vietnam. There are other teams in the field, American, French, British, Chinese, Vietnamese, Vietminh, and others. Each has its own story to tell. This is ours.

The Saigon Military Mission entered Vietnam on 1 June 1954 when its Chief arrived. However, this is the story of a team, and it wasn't until August 1954 that sufficient members arrived to constitute a team. So, this is mainly an account of the team's first year, from August 1954 to August 1955.

It was often a frustrating and perplexing year, up close. The Geneva Agreements signed on 21 July 1954 imposed restrictive rules upon all official Americans, including the Saigon Military Mission. An active and intelligent enemy made full use of legal rights to screen his activities in establishing his stay-behind organizations south of the 17th Parallel and in obtaining quick security north of that Parallel. The nation's economy and communications system were crippled by eight years of open war. The government, including its Army and other security forces, was in a painful transition from colonial to self rule, making it a year of hot-tempered incidents. Internal problems arose quickly to points where armed conflict was sought as the only solution. The enemy was frequently forgotten in the heavy atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and jealousy.

The Saigon Military Mission received some blows from allies and the enemy in this atmosphere, as we worked to help stabilize the government and to beat the Geneva time-table of Communist takeover in the north. However, we did beat the time-table. The government did become stabilized. The Free Vietnamese are now becoming unified and learning how to cope with the Communist enemy. We are thankful that we had a chance to help in this work in a critical area of the world, to be positive and constructive in a year of doubt.


The Saigon Military Mission (SMM) was born in a Washington policy meeting early in 1954, when Dien Bien Phu was still holding out against the encircling Vietminh. The SMM was to enter into Vietnam quietly and assist the Vietnamese, rather than the French, in unconventional warfare. The French were to be kept as friendly allies in the process, as far as possible.

The broad mission for the team was to undertake paramilitary operations against the enemy and to wage political-psychological warfare. Later, after Geneva, the mission was modified to prepare the means for undertaking paramilitary operations in Communist areas rather than to wage unconventional warfare ....


a. Early Days

The Saigon Military Mission (SMM) started on 1 June 1954, when its Chief, Colonel Edward G. Lansdale, USAF, arrived in Saigon with a small box of files and clothes and a borrowed typewriter, courtesy of an SA-16 flight set up for him by the 13th Air Force at Clark AFB. Lt-General John O'Daniel and Embassy Charge Rob McClintock had arranged for his appointment as Assistant Air Attache, since it was improper for U.S. officers at MAAG at that time to have advisory conferences with Vietnamese officers. Ambassador Heath had concurred already. There was no desk space for an office, no vehicle, no safe for files. He roomed with General O'Daniel, later moved to a small house rented by MAAG. Secret communications with Washington were provided through the Saigon station of CIA.

There was deepening gloom in Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu had fallen. The French were capitulating to the Vietminh at Geneva. The first night in Saigon, Vietminh saboteurs blew up large ammunition dumps at the airport, rocking Saigon throughout the night. General O'Daniel and Charge McClintock agreed that it was time to start taking positive action. O'Daniel paved the way for a quick first-hand survey of the situation throughout the country. McClintock paved the way for contacts with Vietnamese political leaders. aur Chief's reputation from the Philippines had preceded him. Hundreds of Vietnamese acquaintanceships were made quickly.

Working in close cooperation with George Hellyer, USIS Chief, a new psychological warfare campaign was devised for the Vietnamese Army and for the government in Hanoi. Shortly after, a refresher course in combat psywar was constructed and Vietnamese Army personnel were rushed through it. A similar course was initiated for the Ministry of Information. Rumor campaigns were added to the tactics and tried out in Hanoi. It was almost too late.

The first rumor campaign was to be a carefully planted story of a Chinese Communist regiment in Tonkin taking reprisals against a Vietminh village whose girls the Chinese had raped, recalling Chinese Nationalist troop behavior in 1945 and confirming Vietnamese fears of Chinese occupation under Vietminh rule; the story was to be planted by soldiers of the Vietnamese Armed Psywar Company in Hanoi dressed in civilian clothes. The troops received their instructions silently, dressed in civilian clothes, went on the mission, and failed to return. They had deserted to the Vietminh. Weeks later, Tonkinese told an excited story of the misbehavior of the Chinese Divisions in Vietminh territory. Investigated, it turned out to be the old rumor campaign, with Vietnamese embellishments.

There was political chaos. Prince Buu Loc no longer headed the government. Government ministries all but closed. The more volatile leaders of political groups were proposing a revolution, which included armed attacks on the French. Col. Jean Carbonel of the French Army proposed establishing a regime with Vietnamese (Nungs and others) known to him close to the Chinese border and asked for our backing. Our reply was that this was a policy decision to be made between the FEC top command and U.S. authorities.

Oscar Arellano, Junior Chamber International vice-president for Southeast Asia, stopped by for a visit with our Chief; an idea in this visit later grew into "Operation Brotherhood."

On 1 July, Major Lucien Conein arrived, as the second member of the team. He is a paramilitary specialist, well-known to the French for his help with French-operated maquis in Tonkin against the Japanese in 1945, the one American guerrilla fighter who had not been a member of the Patti Mission. He was assigned to MAAG for cover purposes. Arranged by Lt-Col William Rosson, a meeting was held with Col Carbonel, Col Nguyen Van Vy, and the two SMM officers; Vy had seen his first combat in 1945 under Conein. Carbonel proposed establishing a maquis, to be kept as a secret between the four officers. SMM refused, learned later that Carbonel had kept the FEC Deuxieme Bureau informed. Shortly afterwards, at a Defense conference with General O'Daniel, our Chief had a chance to suggest Vy for a command in the North, making him a general. Secretary of State for Defense Le Ngoc Chan did so, Vy was grateful and remained so.

Ngo Dinh Diem arrived on 7 July, and within hours was in despair as the French forces withdrew from the Catholic provinces of Phat Diem and Nam Dinh in Tonkin. Catholic militia streamed north to Hanoi and Haiphong, their hearts filled with anger at French abandonment. The two SMM officers stopped a planned grenade attack by militia girls against French troops guarding a warehouse; the girls stated they had not eaten for three days; arrangements were made for Chinese merchants in Haiphong to feed them. Other militia attacks were stopped, including one against a withdrawing French artillery unit; the militia wanted the guns to stand and fight the Vietminh. The Tonkinese had hopes of American friendship and listened to the advice given them. Governor [name illegible] died, reportedly by poison. Tonkin's government changed as despair grew. On 21 July, the Geneva Agreement was signed. Tonkin was given to the Communists. Anti-Communists turned to SMM for help in establishing a resistance movement and several tentative initial arrangements were made.

Diem himself had reached a nadir of frustration, as his country disintegrated after the conference of foreigners. With the approval of Ambassador Heath and General O'Daniel, our Chief drew up a plan of overall governmental action and presented it to Diem, with Hellyer as interpreter. It called for fast constructive action and dynamic leadership. Although the plan was not adopted, it laid the foundation for a friendship which has lasted.

Oscar Areliano visited Saigon again. Major Charles T. R. Bohanan, a former team-mate in Philippine days, was in town. At an SMM conference with these two, "Operation Brotherhood" was born: volunteer medical teams of Free Asians to aid the Free Vietnamese who have few doctors of their own. Washington responded warmly to the idea. President Diem was visited; he issued an appeal to the Free World for help. The Junior Chamber International adopted the idea. SMM would monitor the operation quietly in the background.

President Diem had organized a Committee of Cabinet Ministers to handle the problem of refugees from the Communist North. The Committee system was a failure. No real plans had been made by the French or the Americans. After conferences with USOM (FOA) officials and with General O'Daniel, our Chief suggested to Ambassador Heath that he call a U.S. meeting to plan a single Vietnamese agency, under a Commissioner of Refugees to be appointed by President Diem, to run the Vietnamese refugee program and to provide a channel through which help could be given by the U.S., France, and other free nations. The meeting was called and the plan adopted, with MAAG under General O'Daniel in the coordinating role. Diem adopted the plan. The French pitched in enthusiastically to help. CAT asked SMM for help in obtaining a French contract for the refugee airlift, and got it. In return, CAT provided SMM with the means for secret air travel between the North and Saigon ....

b. August 1954

An agreement had been reached that the personnel ceiling of U.S. military personnel with MAAG would be frozen at the number present in Vietnam on the date of the cease-fire, under the terms of the Geneva Agreement. In South Vietnam this deadline was to be 11 August. It meant that SMM might have only two members present, unless action were taken. General O'Daniel agreed to the addition of ten SMM men under MAAG cover, plus any others in the Defense pipeline who arrived before the deadline. A call for help went out. Ten officers in Korea, Japan, and Okinawa were selected and were rushed to Vietnam.

SMM had one small MAAG house. Negotiations were started for other housing, but the new members of the team arrived before housing was ready and were crammed three and four to a hotel room for the first days. Meetings were held to assess the new members' abilities. None had had political-psychological warfare experience. Most were experienced in paramilitary and clandestine intelligence operations. Plans were made quickly, for time was running out in the north; already the Vietminh had started taking over secret control of Hanoi and other areas of Tonkin still held by French forces.

Major Conein was given responsibility for developing a paramilitary organization in the north, to be in position when the Vietminh took over. . . . [His] . . . team was moved north immediately as part of the MAAG staff working on the refugee problem. The team had headquarters in Hanoi, with a branch in Haiphong. Among cover duties, this team supervised the refugee flow for the Hanoi airlift organized by the French. One day, as a CAT C-46 finished loading, they saw a small child standing on the ground below the loading door. They shouted for the pilot to wait, picked the child up and shoved him into the aircraft, which then promptly taxied out for its takeoff in the constant air shuttle. A Vietnamese man and woman ran up to the team, asking what they had done with their small boy, whom they'd brought out to say goodbye to relatives. The chagrined team explained, finally talked the parents into going south to Free Vietnam, put them in the next aircraft to catch up with their son in Saigon ....

A second paramilitary team was formed to explore possibilities of organizing resistance against the Vietminh from bases in the south. This team consisted of Army Lt-Col Raymond Wittmayer, Army Major Fred Allen, and Army Lt Edward Williams. The latter was our only experienced counter-espionage officer and undertook double duties, including working with revolutionary political groups. Major Allen eventually was able to mount a Vietnamese paramilitary effort in Tonkin from the south, barely beating the Vietminh shutdown in Haiphong as his teams went in, trained and equipped for their assigned missions.

Navy Lt Edward Bain and Marine Captain Richard Smith were assigned as the support group for SMM. Actually, support for an effort such as SMM is a major operation in itself, running the gamut from the usual administrative and personnel functions to the intricate business of clandestine air, maritime, and land supply of paramilitary materiel. In effect, they became our official smugglers as well as paymasters, housing officers, transportation officers, warehousemen, file clerks, and mess officers. The work load was such that other team members frequently pitched in and helped.

c. September 1954

Highly-placed officials from Washington visited Saigon and, in private conversations, indicated that current estimates led to the conclusion that Vietnam probably would have to be written off as a loss. We admitted that prospects were gloomy, but were positive that there was still a fighting chance.

On 8 September, SMM officers visited Secretary of State for Defense Chan and walked into a tense situation in his office. Chan had just arrested Lt-Col Lan (G-6 of the Vietnamese Army) and Capt Giai (G-5 of the Army). Armed guards filled the room. We were told what had happened and assured that everything was all right by all three principals. Later, we discovered that Chan was alone and that the guards were Lt-Col Lan's commandos. Lan was charged with political terrorism (by his "action" squads) and Giai with anti-Diem propaganda (using G-5 leaflet, rumor, and broadcast facilities).

The arrest of Lan and Giai, who simply refused to consider themselves arrested, and of Lt Minh, officer in charge of the Army radio station which was guarded by Army troops, brought into the open a plot by the Army Chief of Staff, General Hinh, to overthrow the government. Hinh had hinted at such a plot to his American friends, using a silver cigarette box given him by Egypt's Naguib to carry the hint. SMM became thoroughly involved in the tense controversy which followed, due to our Chief's closeness to both President Diem and General Hinh. He had met the latter in the Philippines in 1952, was a friend of both Hinh's wife and favorite mistress. (The mistress was a pupil in a small English class conducted for mistresses of important personages, at their request. ...

While various U.S. officials including General O'Daniel and Foreign Service Officer Frank [name illegible] participated in U.S. attempts to heal the split between the President and his Army, Ambassador Heath asked us to make a major effort to end the controversy. This effort strained relations with Diem and never was successful, but did dampen Army enthusiasm for the plot. At one moment, when there was likelihood of an attack by armored vehicles on the Presidental Palace, SMM told Hinh bluntly that U.S. support most probably would stop in such an event. At the same time a group from the Presidential Guards asked for tactical advice on how to stop armored vehicles with the only weapons available to the Guards: carbines, rifles, and hand grenades. The advice, on tank traps and destruction with improvised weapons, must have sounded grim. The following morning, when the attack was to take place, we visited the Palace; not a guard was left on the grounds; President Diem was alone upstairs, calmly getting his work done.

As a result of the Hinh trouble, Diem started looking around for troops upon whom he could count. Some Tonkinese militia, refugees from the north, were assembled in Saigon close to the Palace. But they were insufficient for what he needed. Diem made an agreement with General Trinh Minh The, leader of some 3,000 Cao Dai dissidents in the vicinity of Tayninh, to give General The some needed financial support; The was to give armed support to the government if necessary and to provide a safe haven for the government if it had to flee. The's guerrillas, known as the Lien Minh, were strongly nationalist and were still fighting the Vietminh and the French. At Ambassador Heath's request, the U.S. secretly furnished Diem with funds for The, through the SMM. Shortly afterwards, an invitation came from The to visit him. Ambassador Heath approved the visit....

The northern SMM team under Conein had organized a paramilitary group, (which we will disguise by the Vietnamese name of Binh) through the Northern Dai Viets, a political party with loyalties to Bao Dai. The group was to be trained and supported by the U.S. as patriotic Vietnamese, to come eventually under government control when the government was ready for such activities. Thirteen Binhs were quietly exfiltrated through the port of Haiphong, under the direction of Lt Andrews, and taken on the first stage of the journey to their training area by a U.S. Navy ship. This was the first of a series of helpful actions by Task Force 98, commanded by Admiral Sabin.

Another paramilitary group for Tonkin operations was being developed in Saigon through General Nguyen Van Vy. In September this group started shaping up fast, and the project was given to Major Allen. (We will give this group the Vietnamese name of Hao) ....

Towards the end of the month, it was learned that the largest printing establishment in the north intended to remain in Hanoi and do business with the Vietminh. An attempt was made by SMM to destroy the modern presses, but Vietminh security agents already had moved into the plant and frustrated the attempt. This operation was under a Vietnamese patriot whom we shall call Trieu; his case officer was Capt Arundel. Earlier in the month they had engineered a black psywar strike in Hanoi: leaflets signed by the Vietminh instructing Tonkinese on how to behave for the Vietminh takeover of the Hanoi region in early October, including items about property, money reform, and a three-day holiday of workers upon takeover. The day following the distribution of these leaflets, refugee registration tripled. Two days later Vietminh currency was worth half the value prior to the leaflets. The Vietminh took to the radio to denounce the leaflets; the leaflets were so authentic in appearance that even most of the rank and file Vietminh were sure that the radio denunciations were a French trick.

The Hanoi psywar strike had other consequences. Binh had enlisted a high police official of Hanoi as part of his team, to effect the release from jail of any team members if arrested. The official at the last moment decided to assist in the leaflet distribution personally. Police officers spotted him, chased his vehicle through the empty Hanoi streets of early morning, finally opened fire on him and caught him. He was the only member of the group caught. He was held in prison as a Vietminh agent.

d. October 1954

Hanoi was evacuated on 9 October. The northern SMM team left with the last French troops, disturbed by what they had seen of the grim efficiency of the Vietminh in their takeover, the contrast between the silent march of the victorious Vietminh troops in their tennis shoes and the clanking armor of the well-equipped French whose Western tactics and equipment had failed against the Communist military-political-economic campaign.

The northern team had spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, in taking the first actions for delayed sabotage of the railroad (which required teamwork with a CIA special technical team in Japan who performed their part brilliantly), and in writing detailed notes of potential targets for future paramilitary operations (U.S. adherence to the Geneva Agreement prevented SMM from carrying out the active sabotage it desired to do against the power plant, water facilities, harbor, and bridge). The team had a bad moment when contaminating the oil. They had to work quickly at night, in an enclosed storage room. Fumes from the contaminant came close to knocking them out. Dizzy and weak-kneed, they masked their faces with handkerchiefs and completed the job.

Meanwhile, Polish and Russian ships had arrived in the south to transport southern Vietminh to Tonkin under the Geneva Agreement. This offered the opportunity for another black psywar strike. A leaflet was developed by Binh with the help of Capt Arundel, attributed to the Vietminh Resistance Committee. Among other items, it reassured the Vietminh they would be kept safe below decks from imperialist air and submarine attacks, and requested that warm clothing be brought; the warm clothing item would be coupled with a verbal rumor campaign that Vietminh were being sent into China as railroad laborers.

SMM had been busily developing G-5 of the Vietnamese Army for such psywar efforts. Under Arundel's direction, the First Armed Propaganda Company printed the leaflets and distributed them, by soldiers in civilian clothes who penetrated into southern Vietminh zones on foot. (Distribution in Camau was made while columnist Joseph Alsop was on his visit there which led to his sensational, gloomy articles later; our soldier "Vietminh" failed in an attempt to get the leaflet into Alsop's hands in Camau; Alsop was never told this story). Intelligence reports and other later reports revealed that village and delegation committees complained about "deportation" to the north, after distribution of the leaflet. ...

Contention between Diem and Hinh had become murderous .... Finally, we learned that Hinh was close to action; he had selected 26 October as the morning for an attack on the Presidential Palace. Hinh was counting heavily on Lt-Col Lan's special forces and on Captain Giai who was running Hinh's secret headquarters at Hinh's home. We invited these two officers to visit the Philippines, on the pretext that we were making an official trip, could take them along and open the way for them to see some inner workings of the fight against Filipino Communists which they probably would never see otherwise. Hinh reluctantly turned down his own invitation; he had had a memorable time of it on his last visit to Manila in 1952. Lt- Col Lan was a French agent and the temptation to see behind-the- scenes was too much. He and Giai accompanied SMM officers on the MAAG C-47 which General O'Daniel instantly made available for the operation. 26 October was spent in the Philippines. The attack on the palace didn't come off.

e. November 1954

General Lawton Collins arrived as Ambassador on 8 November. ...

Collins, in his first press conference, made it plain that the U.S. was supporting President Diem. The new Ambassador applied pressure on General Hinh and on 29 November Hinh left for Paris. His other key conspirators followed.

Part of the SMM team became involved in staff work to back up the energetic campaign to save Vietnam which Collins pushed forward. Some SMM members were scattered around the Pacific, accompanying Vietnamese for secret training, obtaining and shipping supplies to be smuggled into north Vietnam and hidden there. In the Philippines, more support was being constructed to help SMM, in expediting the flow of supplies, and in creating Freedom Company, a non-profit Philippines corporation backed by President Magsaysay, which would supply Filipinos experienced in fighting the Communist Huks to help in Vietnam (or elsewhere) ....

On 23 November, twenty-one selected Vietnamese agents and two cooks of our Hao paramilitary group were put aboard a Navy ship in the Saigon River, in daylight. They appeared as coolies, joined the coolie and refugee throng moving on and off ship, and disappeared one by one. It was brilliantly planned and executed, agents being picked up from unobtrusive assembly points throughout the metropolis. Lt Andrews made the plans and carried out the movement under the supervision of Major Allen. The ship took the Hao agents, in compartmented groups, to an overseas point, the first stage in a movement to a secret training area.

f. December 1954

discussions between the U.S., Vietnamese and French had reached a point where it appeared that a military training mission using U.S. officers was in the immediate offing. General O'Daniel had a U.S.-French planning group working on the problem, under Col. Rosson. One paper they were developing was a plan for pacification of Vietminh and dissident areas; this paper was passed to SMM for its assistance with the drafting. SMM wrote much of the paper, changing the concept from the old rigid police controls of all areas to some of our concepts of winning over the population and instituting a classification of areas by the amount of trouble in each, the amount of control required, and fixing responsibilities between civil and military authorities. With a few changes, this was issued by President Diem on 31 December as the National Security Action (Pacification) Directive ....

There was still much disquiet in Vietnam, particularly among anti-Communist political groups who were not included in the government. SMM officers were contacted by a number of such groups who felt that they "would have to commit suicide in 1956" (the 1956 plebiscite promised in the 1954 Geneva agreement), when the Vietminh would surely take over against so weak a government. One group of farmers and militia in the south was talked out of migrating to Madagascar by SMM and staying on their farms. A number of these groups asked SMM for help in training personnel for eventual guerrilla warfare if the Vietminh won. Persons such as the then Minister of Defense and Trinh Minh The were among those loyal to the government who also requested such help. It was decided that a more basic guerrilla training program might be undertaken for such groups than was available at the secret training site to which we had sent the Binh and Hao groups. Plans were made with Major Bohanan and Mr. John C. Wachtel in the Philippines for a solution of this problem; the United States backed the development, through them, of a small Freedom Company training camp in a hidden valley on the Clark AFB reservation.

Till and Peg Durdin of the N. Y. Times, Hank Lieberman of the N. Y. Times, Homer Bigart of the N. Y. Herald-Tribune, John Mecklin of Life-Time, and John Roderick of Associated Press, have been warm friends of SMM and worked hard to penetrate the fabric of French propaganda and give the U.S. an objective account of events in Vietnam. The group met with us at times to analyze objectives and motives of propaganda known to them, meeting at their own request as U.S. citizens. These mature and responsible news correspondents performed a valuable service for their country ....

g. January 1955

The Vietminh long ago had adopted the Chinese Communist thought that the people are the water and the army is the fish. Vietminh relations with the mass of the population during the fighting had been exemplary, with a few exceptions; in contrast, the Vietnamese National Army had been like too many Asian armies, adept at cowing a population into feeding them, providing them with girls. SMM had been working on this problem from the beginning. Since the National Army was the only unit of government with a strong organization throughout the country and with good communications, it was the key to stabilizing the situation quickly on a nation-wide basis. If Army and people could be brought together into a team, the first strong weapon against Communism could be forged.

The Vietminh were aware of this. We later learned that months before the signing of the Geneva Agreement they had been planning for action in the post-Geneva period; the National Army was to be the primary target for subversion efforts, it was given top priority by the Central Committee for operations against its enemy, and about 100 superior cadres were retrained for the operations and placed in the [words illegible] organization for the work, which commenced even before the agreement was signed. We didn't know it at the time, but this was SMM's major opponent, in a secret struggle for the National Army ....

General O'Daniel was anticipating the culmination of long negotiations to permit U.S. training of the Vietnamese Armed Forces, against some resistance on the part of French groups. In January, negotiations were proceeding so well that General O'Daniel informally organized a combined U.S.-French training mission which eventually became known as the Training Relations & Instruction Mission (TRIM) under his command, but under the overall command of the top French commander, General Paul Ely.

The French had asked for top command of half the divisions in the TRIM staff. Their first priority was for command of the division supervising National Security Action by the Vietnamese, which could be developed into a continuation of strong French control of key elements of both Army and population. In conferences with Ambassador Collins and General O'Daniel, it was decided to transfer Colonel Lansdale from the Ambassador's staff to TRIM, to head the National Security division. Colonel Lansdale requested authority to coordinate all U.S. civil and military efforts in this National Security work. On 11 January, Ambassador Collins announced the change to the country team, and gave him authority to coordinate this work among all U.S. agencies in Vietnam ....

President Diem had continued requesting SMM help with the guard battalion for the Presidential Palace. We made arrangements with President Magsaysay in the Philippines and borrowed his senior aide and military advisor, Col. Napoleon Valeriano, who had a fine combat record against the Communist Huks and also had reorganized the Presidential Guard Battalion for Magsaysay. Valeriano, with three junior officers, arrived in January and went to work on Diem's guard battalion. Later, selected Vietnamese officers were trained with the Presidential Guards in Manila. An efficient unit gradually emerged. Diem was warmly grateful for this help by Filipinos who also continuously taught our concept of loyalty and freedom.

The patriot we've named Trieu Dinh had been working on an almanac for popular sale, particularly in the northern cities and towns we could still reach. Noted Vietnamese astrologers were hired to write predictions about coming disasters to certain Vietminh leaders and undertakings, and to predict unity in the south. The work was carried out under the direction of Lt Phillips, based on our concept of the use of astrology for psywar in Southeast Asia. Copies of the almanac were shipped by air to Haiphong and then smuggled into Vietminh territory.

Dinh also had produced a Thomas Paine type series of essays on Vietnamese patriotism against the Communist Vietminh, under the guidance of Capt. Arundel. These essays were circulated among influential groups in Vietnam, earned front-page editorials in the leading daily newspaper in Saigon. Circulation increased with the publication of these essays. The publisher is known to SMM as The Dragon Lady and is a fine Vietnamese girl who has been the mistress of an anti-American French civilian. Despite anti-American remarks by her boy friend, we had helped her keep her paper from being closed by the government . . . and she found it profitable to heed our advice on the editorial content of her paper.

Arms and equipment for the Binh paramilitary team were being cached in the north in areas still free from the Vietminh. Personnel movements were covered by the flow of refugees. Haiphong was reminiscent of our own pioneer days as it was swamped with people whom it couldn't shelter. Living space and food were at a premium, nervous tension grew. It was a wild time for our northern team.

First supplies for the Hao paramilitary group started to arrive in Saigon. These shipments and the earlier ones for the Binh group were part of an efficient and effective air smuggling effort by the 581st [word illegible] Wing, U.S. Air Force, to support SMM, with help by CIA and Air Force personnel in both Okinawa and the Philippines. SMM officers frequently did coolie labor in manhandling tons of cargo, at times working throughout the night. . . . All ... officers pitched in to help, as part of our "blood, sweat and tears" ....

By 31 January, all operational equipment of the Binh paramilitary group had been trans-shipped to Haiphong from Saigon, mostly with the help of CAT, and the northern SMM team had it cached in operational sites. Security measures were tightened at the Haiphong airport and plans for bringing in the Hao equipment were changed from the air route to sea. Task Force 98, now 98.7 under command of Captain Frank, again was asked to give a helping hand and did so ....

. . . . Major Conein had briefed the members of the Binh paramilitary team and started them infiltrating into the north as individuals. The infiltration was carried out in careful stages over a 30 day period, a successful operation. The Binhs became normal citizens, carrying out every day civil pursuits, on the surface.

We had smuggled into Vietnam about eight and a half tons of supplies for the Hao paramilitary group. They included fourteen agent radios, 300 carbines, 90,000 rounds of carbine ammunition, 50 pistols, 10,000 rounds of pistol ammunition, and 300 pounds of explosives. Two and a half tons were delivered to the Hao agents in Tonkin, while the remainder was cached along the Red River by SMM, with the help of the Navy ....

j. April 1955

... the Hao paramilitary team had finished its training at the secret training site and been flown by the Air Force to a holding site in the Philippines, where Major Allen and his officers briefed the paramilitary team. In mid-April, they were taken by the Navy to Haiphong, where they were gradually slipped ashore. Meanwhile, arms and other equipment including explosives were being flown into Saigon via our smuggling route, being readied for shipment north by the Navy task force handling refugees. The White team office gradually became an imposing munitions depot. Nightly shootings and bombings in restless Saigon caused us to give them dispersed storage behind thick walls as far as this one big house would permit. SMM personnel guarded the house night and day, for it also contained our major files other than the working file at our Command Post. All files were fixed for instant destruction, automatic weapons and hand grenades distributed to all personnel. It was a strange scene for new personnel just arriving ....

Haiphong was taken over by the Vietminh on 16 May. Our Binh and northern Hao teams were in place, completely equipped. It had taken a tremendous amount of hard work to beat the Geneva deadline, to locate, select, exfiltrate, train, infiltrate, equip the men of these two teams and have them in place, ready for actions required against the enemy. It would be a hard task to do openly, but this had to be kept secret from the Vietminh, the International Commission with its suspicious French and Poles and Indians, and even friendly Vietnamese. Movements of personnel and supplies had had to be over thousands of miles ....



i. The Department of State representative recommends the deletion of paragraphs A and B hereunder as being redundant and included in other documents.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:16 am

Chapter 2: Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam

Other Events of the Period: 1945-1960

April 12, 1945: Roosevelt dies.

May 8, 1945: War in Europe ends.

Aug. 6, 1945: Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Aug. 14, 1945: Japan surrenders.

Jan. 10, 1946: First U.N. General Assembly opens.

Nov. 2, 1948: Truman elected.

Dec. 7, 1949: Communists complete take-over of China.

June 25, 1950: North Korean troops invade South Korea.

Nov. 1, 1952: First U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion.

Nov. 4, 1952: Eisenhower elected.

March 5, 1953: Stalin dies.

July 27, 1953: Korean war armistice.

Aug. 12, 1953: Soviet Union explodes first H-bomb.

Sept. 8, 1954: SEA TO Pact signed.

July 18-23, 1955: Summit meeting, Geneva.

Oct. 23, 1956: Hungarian uprising begins.

Oct. 29, 1956: Suez invasion.

Nov. 6, 1956: Eisenhower re-elected.

Oct. 4, 1957: Soviet Union launches Sputnik I.

July 15, 1958: U.S. Marines in Lebanon.

Jan. 1, 1959: Castro takes power in Cuba.

Sept. 15-27, 1959: Khrushchev visits U.S.

Nov. 8, 1960: Kennedy elected.

Chapter 2: Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam

by Fox Butterfield

The secret Pentagon study of the Vietnam war says the United States Government's official view that the war was imposed on South Vietnam by aggression from Hanoi is "not wholly compelling."

Successive administrations in Washington, from President John F. Kennedy to President Richard M. Nixon, have used this interpretation of the origins of the war to justify American intervention in Vietnam. But American intelligence estimates during the nineteen-fifties show, the Pentagon account says, that the war began largely as a rebellion in the South against the increasingly oppressive and corrupt regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

"Most of those who took up arms were South Vietnamese and the causes for which they fought were by no means contrived in North Vietnam," the Pentagon account says of the years from 1956 to 1959, when the insurgency began.

The study also disputes many critics of American policy in Vietnam who have contended that North Vietnam became involved in the South only after 1965 in response to large-scale American intervention.

"It is equally clear that North Vietnamese Communists operated some form of subordinate apparatus in the South in the years 1954-1960," the Pentagon study says.

And in 1959, the account continues, Hanoi made a clear decision to assert its control over the growing insurgency and to increase its infiltration of trained cadres from the North. Thereafter, the study says, "Hanoi's involvement in the developing strife became evident."

Developments related to the origins of the war that are disclosed by the Pentagon history include the following:

• American officials in Saigon, including those in the embassy, the Central Intelligence Agency and the military command were fully aware of President Diem's shortcomings. They regularly reported to Washington that he was "authoritarian, inflexible and remote," that he entrusted power only to his own family and that he had alienated all elements of the population by his oppressive policies.
• From 1954 to 1958 North Vietnam concentrated on its internal development, apparently hoping to achieve reunification either through the elections provided for in the Geneva settlement or through the natural collapse of the weak Diem regime. The Communists left behind a skeletal apparatus in the South when they regrouped to North Vietnam in 1954 after the war with the French ended, but the cadre members were ordered to engage only in "political struggle."
• In the years before 1959 the Diem regime was nearly successful in wiping out the agents, who felt constrained by their orders not to fight back. Their fear and anger at being caught in this predicament, however, apparently led them to begin the insurgency against Mr. Diem, despite their orders, sometime during 1956-57.

North Vietnam's leaders formally decided in May, 1959, at the 15th meeting of the Lao Dong (Communist) party's Central Committee, to take control of the growing insurgency. Captured Vietcong personnel and documents report that as a result of the decision the Ho Chi Minh Trail of supply lines was prepared, southern cadre members who had been taken North were infiltrated back to the South and the tempo of the war suddenly speeded up.

The Pentagon account says that both American intelligence and Vietcong prisoners attributed the Vietcong's rapid success after 1959 to the Diem regime's mistakes.

In a report prepared by the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, Calif., on the interrogation of 23 Vietcong cadre members, one southern member said of the Communists' success:

"The explanation is not that the cadre were exceptionally gifted but the people they talked to were ready for rebellion. The people were like a mound of straw, ready to be ignited.

"If at that time the Government in the South had been a good one, if it had not been dictatorial, then launching the movement would have been difficult."

A United States intelligence estimate of August, 1960, on the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Vietnam concluded:

"The indications of increasing dissatisfaction with the Diem government have probably encouraged the Hanoi regime to take stronger action at this time."

To emphasize how the Diem regime's oppressive and corrupt policies helped prepare the way for the insurgency in South Vietnam, the Pentagon study devotes a lengthy section to Mr. Diem's rule -- as Premier from 1954 until late 1955 and then as President until he was overthrown in 1963.

When Mr. Diem took office in 1954, the account notes, it seemed for a while that he "did accomplish miracles," as his supporters contended.

To the surprise of most observers, he put down the Binh Xuyen gangster sect in Saigon and the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao, armed sects in the countryside. He created a stable government and a loyal army where there had been only chaos. And he won diplomatic recognition for South Vietnam from many foreign governments.

But from the beginning, the account says, President Diem's personality and political concepts tended to decrease his Government's effectiveness.

The product of a family that was both zealously Roman Catholic and a member of the traditional Mandarin ruling class, Mr. Diem was authoritarian, moralistic, inflexible, bureaucratic and suspicious. His mentality is described in the account as like that of a "Spanish Inquisitor."

His political machine was a "rigidly organized, overcentralized family oligarchy." He trusted only his family members, particularly his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, who had organized the semi-secret Can Lao party.

An American intelligence estimate of May, 1959, described the situation as follows:

"President Diem continues to be the undisputed ruler of South Vietnam; all important and many minor decisions are referred to him.

"Although he professes to believe in representative government and democracy, Diem is convinced that the Vietnamese are not ready for such a political system and that he must rule with a firm hand, at least so long as national security is threatened.

"He also believes that the country cannot afford a political opposition which could obstruct or dilute the Government's efforts to establish a strong rule. He remains a somewhat austere and remote figure to most Vietnamese and has not generated widespread popular enthusiasm.

"Diem's regime reflects his ideas. A facade of representative government is maintained, but the Government is in fact essentially authoritarian.

"The legislative powers of the National Assembly are strictly circumscribed; the judiciary is undeveloped and subordinate to the executive; and the members of the executive branch are little more than the personal agents of Diem.

"No organized opposition, loyal or otherwise, is tolerated, and critics of the regime are often repressed."

To make matters worse, according to the account, Mr. Diem's programs designed to increase security in the countryside were carried out so badly that they "drove a wedge not between the insurgents and the farmers, but between the farmers and the Government, and eventuated in less rather than more security."

The Civic Action program, designed to help the Government in Saigon establish communication with the peasants, went astray when President Diem used northern refugees and Catholics almost exclusively to go into the villages. To the peasants these Civic Action team members were outsiders.

The Diem land-reform program, instead of redistributing land to the poor, ended up taking back what the peasants had been given by the Vietminh and returning it to the landlords. In 1960, 75 percent of the land was still owned by 15 percent of the people.

Mr. Diem abolished the traditional elected village councils out of fear that Communists might gain power in them. Then he replaced these popular bodies with appointed outsiders, northern refugees and Catholics loyal to him.

In the so-called anti-Communist denunciation campaign, which was begun in the summer of 1955, from 50,000 to 100,000 people were put in detention camps. But, the account says, many of the detainees were not Communists at all.

President Diem also ordered a number of population-relocation programs to increase security, but these too backfired, it says.

Montagnard tribesmen who were forced to leave their traditional homelands in the Central Highlands for more settled and secure areas made easy recruits for the Vietcong, the chronicle relates, and peasants who were forced to move out of their ancestral villages and build new ones in the so-called agroville program resented the Saigon Government.

Despite "Diem's preoccupation with security," the account says, "he poorly provided for police and intelligence in -- both militia groups -- were "poorly trained and equipped, miserably led. " "Their brutality, petty thievery and disorderliness induced innumerable villagers to join in open revolt against Diem," the account continues.

By curbing freedom of speech and jailing dissidents, the history says, Mr. Diem alienated the intellectuals; by promoting officers on the basis of loyalty to his family rather than on the basis of ability, he alienated large segments of the armed forces.

Looking at the Diem Government's growing problems in January, 1960, the United States Embassy concluded in a "Special Report on the Internal Security Situation in Vietnam":

"The situation may be summed up in the fact that the Government has tended to treat the population with suspicion or to coerce it and has been rewarded with an attitude of apathy and resentment.

"The basic factor which has been lacking is a feeling of rapport between the Government and the population. The people have not identified themselves with the Government."

The report pointed to this "growth of apathy and considerable dissatisfaction among the rural populace" as a major cause of the insurgency.

"Political Struggle"

The Pentagon study divides the development of the insurgency in South Vietnam into roughly three periods:

From 1954 to 1956 the country enjoyed relative quiet as Communist cadres left behind in the South devoted themselves to "political struggle." From 1956 to 1958, after President Diem's rejection of the scheduled elections, dissident cadres in the South began the insurgency. With Hanoi's decision to take over the insurgency in 1959, the third period, that of full-scale war, began.

When Ho Chi Minh established his capital in Hanoi after the Geneva conference in 1954, American intelligence reported that North Vietnam's new leaders could be expected to concentrate on building their war-ravaged and primitive economy.

According to the American information, the Communists had taken with them 90,000 armed men from the South, leaving 5,000 to 10,000 armed men behind as a "skeletal apparatus."

From captured documents, American intelligence officials believed that the "stay-behind cadres" had the main task of preparing for the elections scheduled for 1956 to reunify the country. The cadre members were ordered to carry out only "political struggle," which meant largely propaganda activity and infiltration of the Saigon Government.

A document captured early in 1955 from a Communist field organizer and sent to Washington by the Central Intelligence Agency warned that "it is not the time to meet the enemy." The Communists apparently believed, the study says, that they would get control of the country either through the elections or by the collapse of the Diem regime through its own weakness.

In 1966 the confidential Rand Corporation study of captured southern cadre members who originally went to the North in 1954 showed that most of them had expected that the Communists would win in the 1956 elections.

"Our political officer explained that we were granted Vietnam north of the 17th Parallel now, but in 1956 there would be a general election and we would regain the South and be reunited with our families," one captive reported.

"I was a political officer," another explained. "I went to the North just like all the other combatants in my unit. I believed, at the time, that regroupment was only temporary, because from the study sessions on the Geneva agreement we drew the conclusion that we could return to the South after the general election."

While there were some incidents of murder or kidnapping in the southern countryside from 1954 to 1956, they were not directly attributable to the Communist "stay-behinds," the account says.

A United States intelligence estimate of July, 1956, noted:

"During the past year the Communists in South Vietnam have remained generally quiescent. They have passed by a number of opportunities to embarrass the Diem regime.

"Although some cadres and supplies are being infiltrated across the 17th Parallel, the D.R.V. [Democratic Republic of North Vietnam] probably has not sent any large-scale reinforcement or supply to the South."

The American intelligence network in South Vietnam, though limited in size, was well informed of the Communists' attitudes and actions during this period, the study explains. An intelligence estimate in May, 1957, noted:

"Because the countrywide elections envisaged by the Geneva agreements have not been held and because military action has been prevented, the D.R.Y. has been frustrated in its hopes of gaining control of SVN. This has caused some discontent among cadres evacuated from the South in the expectation that they would soon return."

Intelligence gathered from Communist agents and documents captured in the nineteen-sixties, when the American intelligence network had expanded, filled out this picture of frustration and disillusionment among the cadre members.

A captured Communist who had been in charge of propaganda in Saigon testified: "The period from the armistice of 1954 until 1958 was the darkest time for the Vietcong in South Vietnam. The political agitation policy proposed by the Communist party could not be carried out due to the arrest of a number of party members."

Another cadre member reported: "The cadres who had remained behind in the South had almost all been arrested. Only one or two cadres were left in every three to five villages."

A document that appears to be a party history, captured in 1966 by the United States First Infantry Division during a sweep through the area called the Iron Triangle near Saigon, described the cadres' predicament. Noting that the Diem Government's harsh security policies had "truly and efficiently destroyed our party," the document referring to the scheduled date for the elections said:

"Particularly after 20 July 1956, the key cadres and party members in South Vietnam asked questions which demanded answers:

"Can we still continue the struggle to demand the implementation of the Geneva agreement given the existing regime in South Vietnam? If not, what must be done? A mood of skepticism and nonconfidence in the orientation of the struggle began to seep into the party apparatus and among some of the masses."

For some cadres, the documents said the answer was "armed struggle" despite their orders. It continued:

"The situation truly ripened for an armed movement against the enemy. But the leadership of the Nam Bo Regional Committee [then the Vietcong's headquarters for the southern part of South Vietnam] at that time still hesitated for many reasons, but the principal reason was the fear of violating the party line.

"The majority of party members and cadres felt that it was necessary to immediately launch an armed struggle in order to preserve the movement and protect the forces. In several areas the party members on their own initiative had organized armed struggle against the enemy."

According to the Pentagon account, the result of the cadres' decision to begin armed struggle was soon apparent in Saigon.

American intelligence officers in Saigon estimated that 30 armed terrorist incidents were initiated in the last quarter of 1957, with at least 75 local officials assassinated or kidnapped. On Oct. 22, 13 Americans were wounded in three bombings in Saigon.

But, the account says, "there is only sparse evidence that North Vietnam was directing, or was capable of directing, that violence."

During this period, from 1956 to 1958, the party leaders in Hanoi were engaged in "a serious reconsideration" of their policy, the account says.

Sometime early in 1957 Le Duan, a southerner who had led the fight in the South during the French Indochina war, returned to Hanoi from a two-year stay in the South, carrying news that the struggle there was going badly. According to American intelligence reports, he told the Politburo that it was wasting time with its orders for "political struggle." He was said to have urged military pressure.

Mr. Duan, the study notes, was named a member of the Politburo later that same year, and in September, 1960, he became the First Secretary of the party.

The futility of their policy must have been brought home to the leaders in Hanoi according to the study, when on Jan. 24, 1957, the Soviet Union proposed the admission of both North and South Vietnam to the United Nations.

But until 1958 North Vietnam was still primarily concerned with its internal development, the account says, especially during 1956, when there was a peasant revolt against the Communists' harsh land-reform program.

In December, 1958, or January, 1959, the study continues, "Hanoi apparently decided that the time had come to intensify its efforts."

American intelligence quickly picked up clues about this decision.

The C.I.A. came into possession of a directive from Hanoi to its headquarters for the Central Highlands during December, 1958, stating that the Lao Dong party's Central Committee had decided to "open a new stage of the struggle."

And in January, 1959, the C.I.A. received a copy of an order directing the establishment of two guerrilla operations bases, one in Tayninh Province near the Cambodian border and another in the western Central Highlands.

The C.I.A. also learned at this time that Mr. Duan was making a secret visit to the South.

The decision that had been made privately by the Politburo was formally ratified by the Central Committee at its 15th meeting in May, 1959. All available evidence suggests that this was "the point of departure for D.R.V. intervention," the narrative says.

Scholars and journalists who have studied the origins of the insurgency, but who have not had access to American intelligence reports, have not attached such significance to that 15th session.

The United States Embassy in Saigon, reporting to Washington on the Central Committee decision, noted that a resolution had been passed saying that the struggle for reunification would have to be carried out by "all appropriate measures other than peaceful," the embassy reported.

The document captured by the First Infantry Division recalled the 1959 decision:

"After the resolution of the 15th plenum of the Central Committee was issued, all of South Vietnam possessed a clear and correct strategic policy and orientation.

"The directive of the Politburo in May, 1959, stated that the time had come to push the armed struggle. Thanks to this we closely followed the actual situation in order to formulate a program, and in October, 1959, the armed struggle was launched."

A rapid build-up of Hanoi's potential for infiltration followed the party's decision to take a more active role in the insurgency, the analyst says.

Infiltration from North Vietnam had actually begun as early as 1955, United States intelligence reports show, but only in 1959 did the C.I.A. pick up evidence of large-scale infiltration.

To operate the infiltration trails, a group of montagnard tribesmen from Quangtri and Thuathien Provinces were given special training in North Vietnam in 1958 and 1959.

Early in 1959 also, the C.I.A. reported, Hanoi formed "special border crossing teams" composed of southerners who went to the North in 1954. Their mission was to carry food, drugs and other supplies down the trail network.

And in April, 1959, the C.I.A. learned, the 559th Transportation Group was established directly under the party's Central Committee as a headquarters in charge of infiltration.

Large training centers for infiltrators were reportedly established early in 1960 at Xuanmai and Sontay, near Hanoi. During 1959 and 1960, United States intelligence officials estimated, 26 groups of infiltrators, totaling 4,500 people, made the trip south.

From later interrogation of captured infiltrators, United States intelligence officers learned that until 1964 almost all the infiltrators were native southerners who went to the North in 1954.

A Rand Corporation study of 71 of the infiltrators showed that two out of three were members of the Lao Dong party; that they had all undergone extensive periods of training in North Vietnam before being sent south; and that most of them were officers, senior noncommissioned officers or party cadre members.

Hanoi's decision to switch from "political struggle" to "armed struggle" was rapidly reflected in a rise in terrorist attacks in South Vietnam during the second half of 1959, the Pentagon study says.

The United States Embassy, in a Special Report on the Internal Security Situation in Vietnam in January, 1960, noted that while there were 193 assassinations in all of 1958, there were 119 assassinations in the last four months of 1959 alone.

Even more alarming, the embassy said, were Vietcong attacks for the first time on large South Vietnamese Army units. A Vietcong ambush of two companies of Saigon's 23d Division on Sept. 26, 1959, with the killing of 12 Government soldiers and the loss of most of their weapons, brought home "the full impact of the seriousness of the present situation."

The stepped-up insurgency led to the first American casualties of the war in South Vietnam. On July 8, 1959, a terrorist bomb inside the Bienhoa base compound killed two United States servicemen.

In its January, 1960, report on the deteriorating situation, the embassy also passed on to Washington two comments made by the North Vietnamese Premier, Pham Van Dong, which it considered significant:

First: "'You must remember we will be in Saigon tomorrow, we will be in Saigon tomorrow.' These words were spoken by Premier Ph am Van Dong in a conversation with French Consul Georges-Picot on Sept. 12, 1959."

And second: "In November, Pham Van Dong twice told Canadian Commissioner Erichsen-Brown that 'We will drive the Americans into the sea.'" The Canadian, a representative on the International Control Commission, was stationed in Hanoi.

The National Liberation Front for South Vietnam was officially founded on Dec. 20, 1960, the study relates, and within a year its membership had quadrupled to 300,000. By then the insurgency had taken root.

Ho Chi Minh, left, in Paris, 1946. Third from left, Gen. Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, later commander of Indochina forces. (A.F.P. from Pictorial)

Ho planning Dienbienphu attack in 1954. Second from left is Pham Van Dong; at right is Vo Nguyen Giap, chief strategist. (Black Star)

The Vietminh plant their flag on Dienbienphu as the French surrender. The French defeat ended the war in Indochina.

U.S. airlifted French troops from Paris to Saigon in 1954. (Wide World)

In Haiphong, American airmen unload supplies for the French. (Pictorial Parade; "Paris Match")

C-47's given to the French were serviced by U.S. mechanics. (Pictorial Parade)

U.S. colonel advises Vietnamese officers at Mytho in 1955. (The New York Times)

Pham Van Dong headed Vietminh delegation at 1954 Geneva talks. Next to him are Chou En-lai of People's Republic of China, right, and Andrei Gromyko of Soviet Union. (UPI)

Chief of U.S. mission in 1955 was Gen. John O'Daniel, left. Ambassador Frederick Reinhardt is seated next to President Ngo Dinh Diem. Col. Edward Lansdale, center, doffs his cap. (Francois Sully from Black Star)

President Truman, Dean Acheson and George Marshall with Rene Pleven of France. Acheson had counseled Truman to give aid to the French: earlier, Marshall had been ambivalent. (Nick De Margoli -- Pix)

President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles and Diem in 1957. U.S. vowed to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam, fearing a "domino effect" throughout Southeast Asia. (Wide World)
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:23 am


Chapter 3: The Kennedy Years: 1961-1963

Highlights of the Period: 1961-1963

The Pentagon study reaches no conclusion as to how the course of the Vietnam war might have changed if John F. Kennedy had lived -- but it sums up the Kennedy years as a time of significantly deepening U.S. involvement.

Here, arranged chronologically, are the highlights of those two and a half years:


A national intelligence estimate reported that an "extremely critical period" for South Vietnam and the Saigon regime was "immediately ahead."

The President ordered 400 Special Forces soldiers and 100 other military advisers to South Vietnam, the study says. He also ordered a clandestine campaign of "sabotage and light harassment" in the North by South Vietnamese agents trained by the U.S.

A task force headed by Roswell L. Gilpatric proposed discussions with President Diem on the "possibility of a defensive security alliance" despite the violation of the Geneva accords. The President approved.

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, reporting on his mission to Saigon, said the U.S. must decide "whether to help these countries" or to "throw in the towel" and "pull back our defenses to San Francisco."

President Diem, in a letter to President Kennedy, asked for a "considerable" buildup in U.S. forces and a 100,000-man increase in the South Vietnamese army. He used "inflated infiltration figures" to support his contention of the Communist threat, the study says.

The White House agreed to finance a 30,000-man increase in South Vietnam's army.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated that 40,000 U.S. servicemen would be needed to "clean up the Vietcong threat."

William P. Bundy, in a note to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, urged "early and hard-hitting" U.S. intervention. He gave this a 70 per cent chance of "arresting things," and estimated there was a 30 per cent chance that "we would wind up like the French in 1954; white men can't win this kind of fight."

A national intelligence estimate reported "little evidence" that the Vietcong rely on external supplies, the Pentagon account says.

General Taylor met with President Diem. He recommended a Mekong Delta flood-relief "task force, largely military in composition," including "combat troops" for protection. He recommended a 6,000-8,000-man U.S. force, warning that they "may expect to take casualties," but that they could be withdrawn or "phased into other activities."

He discounted the risk of a "major Asian war," and said the North was "extremely vulnerable to conventional bombing."

Mr. McNamara said he and the Joint Chiefs were "inclined to recommend" General Taylor's proposal although the "struggle may be prolonged."

General Taylor, in a message to President Kennedy, said a "U.S. military task force is essential."

Mr. McNamara and Mr. Rusk, in a joint memo, backed General Taylor's recommendations. They recommended, initially, "U.S. units of modest size" for "direct support" and "as speedily as possible"; they insisted that government reforms be a precondition.

The President approved the major recommendations. President Diem was said to be upset by the U.S. response. The demands for reforms were softened, and the insistence on American participation in decision-making was withdrawn.


A military briefing paper for the President reported 948 U.S. servicemen were in South Vietnam by the end of November; 2,646 by the next January 9. There were also helicopter combat-support missions.

Mr. McNamara ordered planning for U.S. withdrawal, partly on the basis of what he called "tremendous progress," and also because of the difficulty of holding public support for American operations "indefinitely."

Michael V. Forrestal, a White House aide, reported to Kennedy that a long, costly conflict should be anticipated. He said that Vietcong recruiting was so effective that the guerrillas could do without infiltration from the North.

The U.S., by October, had 16,732 men in Vietnam. Planning for withdrawal continued, the study says, on the basis of "the most Micawberesque predictions" of progress.

Chapter 3: The Kennedy Years: 1961-1963

by Hedrick Smith

The Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war concludes that President John F. Kennedy transformed the "limited-risk gamble" of the Eisenhower Administration into a "broad commitment" to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam.

Although Mr. Kennedy resisted pressures for putting American ground-combat units into South Vietnam, the Pentagon analysts say, he took a series of actions that significantly expanded the American military and political involvement in Vietnam but nonetheless left President Lyndon B. Johnson with as bad a situation as Mr. Kennedy inherited.

'The dilemma of the U.S. involvement dating from the Kennedy era," the Pentagon study observes, was to use "only limited means to achieve excessive ends."

Moreover, according to the study, prepared in 1967-68 by Government analysts, the Kennedy tactics deepened the American involvement in Vietnam piecemeal, with each step minimizing public recognition that the American role was growing.

President Kennedy made his first fresh commitments to Vietnam secretly. The Pentagon study discloses that in the spring of 1961 the President ordered 400 Special Forces troops and 100 other American military advisers sent to South Vietnam. No publicity was given to either move.

Small as the numbers seem in retrospect, the Pentagon study comments that even the first such expansion "signaled a willingness to go beyond the 685-man limit on the size of the U.S. [military] mission in Saigon, which, if it were done openly, would be the first formal breach of the Geneva agreement." Under the interpretation of that agreement in effect since 1956, the United States was limited to 685 military advisers in Vietnam. Washington, while it did not sign the accord, pledged not to undermine it.

On May 11, 1961, the day on which President Kennedy decided to send the Special Forces, he also ordered the start of a campaign of clandestine warfare against North Vietnam, to be conducted by South Vietnamese agents directed and trained by the Central Intelligence Agency and some Americ'1n Special Forces troops. [See Document #20.]

The President's instructions, as quoted in the documents, were, "In North Vietnam ... [to] form networks of resistance, covert bases and teams for sabotage and light harassment." The American military mission in Saigon was also instructed to prepare South Vietnamese Army units "to conduct ranger raids and similar military actions in North Vietnam as might prove necessary or appropriate."

The Pentagon study reports that the primary target of the clandestine campaign against North Vietnam, and Laos as well, was to be "lines of communication" -- railroads, highways, bridges, train depots and trucks.

The study does not report how many agents were actually sent north, though documents accompanying it described some of the build-up and training of the First Observation Group, the main South Vietnamese unit conducting the covert campaign.

Within weeks of President Kennedy's May 11 decision, moreover, the North Vietnamese Government made repeated protests to the International Control Commission that its airspace and territory were being violated by foreign aircraft and South Vietnamese ground raids thrusting into the demilitarized zone along the border between the two Vietnams.

In July, 1961, Hanoi announced publicly that it had captured and was putting on trial three South Vietnamese participants in undercover operations who had survived the crash of a plane that was shot down, Hanoi said, while preparing to drop them into North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese, protesting formally to Britain and the Soviet Union -- the cochairmen of the 1954 Geneva conference on Vietnam -- described in detail what they said the survivors had disclosed about their American training and equipment.

Mr. Kennedy's May 11 orders, the study discloses, also called for infiltration of South Vietnamese forces into southeastern Laos to find and attack Communist bases and supply lines.

On Oct. 13, moreover, the President reportedly gave additional secret orders for allied forces to "initiate ground action, including the use of U.S. advisers if necessary," against Communist aerial resupply missions in the vicinity of Tchepone, in the southern Laotian panhandle.

The Pentagon study does not analyze these covert operations in detail, but it shows Mr. Kennedy's decisions as part of an unbroken sequence that built up to much more ambitious covert warfare against North Vietnam under President Johnson in 1964.

The analysts handling the Kennedy period put more stress, however, on the evolution of President Kennedy's decision in November, 1961, to expand greatly the American military advisory mission in Vietnam and, for the first time, to put American servicemen in combat-support roles that involved them increasingly in actual fighting.

In a cablegram to Washington on Nov. 18, cited in the study, Frederick E. Nolting Jr., the United States Ambassador in Saigon, described the significance attached to those moves. He said he had explained to President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam that the new roles of American servicemen "could expose them to enemy action."

"In response to Diem's question," Mr. Nolting continued, "[I] said that in my personal opinion these personnel would be authorized to defend themselves if attacked. I pointed out that this was one reason why the decisions were very grave from U.S. standpoints."

Questions for Kennedy

The Pentagon study shows President Kennedy facing three main questions on Vietnam during his term of office: whether to make an irrevocable commitment to prevent a Communist victory; whether to commit ground combat units to achieve his ends; whether to give top priority to the military battle against the Vietcong or to the political reforms necessary for winning popular support.

President Kennedy's response during 34 months in office, as the Pentagon account tells it, was to increase American advisers from the internationally accepted level of 685 to roughly 16,000 to put Americans into combat situations -- resulting in a tenfold increase in American combat casualties in one year -- and eventually to inject the United States into the internal South Vietnamese maneuvering that finally toppled the Diem regime.

The judgment of the Pentagon study is that while President Kennedy's actions stopped short of the fundamental decision to commit ground troops, nonetheless, "the limited-risk gamble undertaken by Eisenhower had been transformed into an unlimited commitment under Kennedy." Later, more cautiously, the study says that Mr. Kennedy's policies produced a "broad commitment" to Vietnam's defense, giving priority to the military aspects of the war over political reforms.

The study also observes that the pervasive assumption in the Kennedy Administration was that "the Diem regime's own evident weaknesses -- from the 'famous problem of Diem as administrator' to the Army's lack of offensive spirit -- could be cured if enough dedicated Americans, civilians and military, became involved in South Vietnam to show the South Vietnamese, at all levels, how to get on and win the war."

President Kennedy and his senior advisers are described in the study as considering defeat unthinkable and assuming that the mere introduction of Americans would provide the South Vietnamese with what the authors call "the elan and style needed to win."

The description of the debates in the Kennedy Administration presented in the study are revealing -- particularly when the President decides against committing ground troops -- because they emerge, in effect, as a rehearsal for the planning in the Johnson era that led to outright war in 1965. Many of the same officials advanced many of the same arguments, and the intelligence community offered some of the same ominous forewarnings.

President Kennedy was told that sending ground troops would be a "shot in the arm" that would "spark real transformation" of the Southern Vietnamese Army. The Joint Chiefs of Staff calculated that, at worst, no more than 205,000 American soldiers would be required to cope not only with the Vietcong but also with North Vietnam and Communist China if they should intervene. Both military and civilian advisers contended that American bombing of the North -- even the mere threat of it -- would hold Hanoi and the other Communist nations at bay.

In secretly urging the first commitment of American ground troops to Vietnam in November, 1961, Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, then the President's personal military adviser, discounted the risks of a major land war. In a private message to the President from the Philippines, on his way home from Saigon on Nov. 1, he said:

"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. [Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam] and the Chicoms would face severe logistical difficulties in trying to maintain strong forces in the field in SEA [Southeast Asia], 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."

In General Taylor's recommendations for an initial commitment of 6,000 to 8,000 American ground troops, the account relates, he had a co-author, Walt W. Rostow, then the senior White House aide working on Southeast Asia.

On Nov. 5 Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara sent President Kennedy a memorandum stating that he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were "inclined to recommend" General Taylor's proposal -- but with the significant warning that much greater troop commitments were likely in the future. [See Document #29.]

"The struggle may be prolonged and Hanoi and Peiping may intervene overtly," the McNamara memorandum told the President. It estimated that even so, "the maximum U.S. forces required on the ground in Southeast Asia will not exceed six divisions, or about 205,000 men."

The President eventually rejected this approach. But the Pentagon study comments that the ground-troop issue so dominated the discussions that Mr. Kennedy's ultimate decisions to approve the advisory build-up and the introduction of combat-support troops was made "without a careful examination" of precisely what it was expected to produce and how.

The study concludes that the Kennedy strategy was fatally flawed from the outset for political as much as for military reasons. It depended, the study notes, on successfully prodding President Diem to undertake the kind of political, economic and social reforms that would, in the slogan of that day, "win the hearts and minds of the people."

"The U.S. over-all plan to end the insurgency was on shaky ground on the GVN side," the study comments. "Diem needed the U.S. and the U.S. needed a reformed Diem."

It also says: "If he could not [reform], the U.S. plan to end the insurgency was foredoomed from its inception, for it depended on Vietnamese initiatives to solve a Vietnamese problem."

And in the end, the Pentagon account relates, the Kennedy Administration concluded that President Diem could not reform sufficiently and in 1963 abandoned him.

Abandoning President Diem was what Ambassador Elbridge Durbrow had suggested in September, 1960, [see Document # 16.] and again that December, shortly before Mr. Kennedy took office as President. Drawing on the Ambassador's reports, among others, a national intelligence estimate provided for Mr. Kennedy on March 28, 1961, gave a bleak appraisal of the situation in Vietnam:

"An extremely critical period for President Ngo Dinh Diem and the Republic of Vietnam lies immediately ahead. During the past six months the internal security situation has continued to deteriorate and has now reached serious proportions ...

"More than one-half of the entire rural region south and southwest of Saigon, as well as some areas to the north, are under considerable Communist control. Some of these areas are in effect denied to all government authority not immediately backed by substantial armed force. The Vietcong's strength encircles Saigon and has recently begun to move closer in on the city . . . .

"The deterioration in the position of the Diem Government reached a new extreme in November when army paratroop officers joined forces with a number of civilian oppositionists in a narrowly defeated attempt to overthrow Diem. On the surface, Diem's position appears to have improved somewhat since then ....

"However, the facts which gave rise to the coup attempt have not been seriously dealt with and still exist. Discontent with the Diem Government continues to be prevalent among intellectual circles and, to a lesser degree, among labor and business groups. There has been an increasing disposition within official circles and the Army to question Diem's ability to lead in this period. Many feel that he is unable to rally the people in the fight against the Communists because of his reliance on virtual one-man rule, his toleration of corruption extending even to his immediate entourage, and his refusal to relax a rigid system of public controls."

This assessment, the Pentagon study relates, echoed the themes and even some of the language of Ambassador Durbrow's cablegrams. One of these, on Sept. 24, 1960, suggested that if President Diem was unable to regain support through political and social reforms, "it may become necessary for U.S. Government to begin consideration alternative courses of action and leaders."

A Challenge for the U.S.

However serious the problem in South Vietnam, the situation in Laos was far more critical. "The Western position was in the process of falling apart as Kennedy took office," the Pentagon account says.

And during the spring of 1961, when President Kennedy made his first series of Vietnam decisions, Laos -- not Vietnam -- was the dominant issue and largely determined how Vietnam should be handled, according to the Pentagon account.

The Eisenhower Administration had chosen to back rightwing elements in Laos, and by early 1961 they were reeling under Communist and neutralist attacks. President Kennedy chose to seek a political compromise and a military cease-fire rather than to continue to support the Laotian rightists.

Because of this shift in strategy in Laos, the Pentagon study says, the Kennedy Administration felt impelled to show strength in Vietnam to reassure America's allies in Asia.

In what the Administration saw as a global power competition with the Soviet Union, the account notes, Washington thought it dangerous to give ground too often. Summing up the Administration's reasoning, the author writes: "After the U.S. stepped back in Laos, it might be hard to persuade the Russians that we intended to stand firm anywhere if we then gave up on Vietnam."

Moreover, the Kennedy Administration sensed a particular challenge in the declaration by the Soviet Premier, Nikita S. Khrushchev, on Jan. 6, 1961, that Moscow intended to back "wars on national liberation" around the world. In response, counterinsurgency -- as strategy against guerrilla war became known -- grew to be a primary preoccupation of the Kennedy White House, as a steady flow of Presidential decision papers testifies.

"Vietnam was the only place in the world where the Administration faced a well-developed Communist effort to topple a pro-Western government with an externally aided pro-Communist insurgency," the Pentagon study comments. "It was a challenge that could hardly be ignored."

On April 12 Mr. Rostow, the senior White House specialist on Southeast Asia and a principal architect of counterinsurgency doctrine, put Vietnam directly before President Kennedy with a memorandum [see Document #22] asserting that the time had come for "gearing up the whole Vietnam operation." He proposed a series of moves that the study calls "pretty close to an agenda" for the Kennedy Administration's first high-level review of Vietnam. Among other things Mr. Rostow proposed these measures:

• "The appointment of a full-time first-rate backstop man in Washington."
• "A possible visit to Vietnam in the near future by the Vice President."
• "The raising of the MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] ceiling, which involves some diplomacy, unless we can find an alternative way of introducing into the Vietnam operation a substantial number of Special Forces types."
• "Setting the question of extra funds for Diem."
• "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."

Virtually all the Rostow proposals eventually became policy except his suggestion for a "first-rate backstop man." His candidate, the study notes, was Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, a long-time Central Intelligence Agency operative who was close to President Diem and who in 1961 was in charge of "special operations" for the Pentagon. The State Department blocked his appointment, the study reports.

On April 20 -- the day after the collapse of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba -- President Kennedy ordered a quick review of the Vietnam situation. As quoted by Secretary McNamara, the President's instructions were to "appraise . . . the Communist drive to dominate South Vietnam" and "recommend a series of actions (military, political and/ or economic, overt and/ or covert) which, in your opinion, will prevent Communist domination of that country."

The task force, headed by Roswell L. Gilpatric, Deputy Secretary of Defense, turned in its report on April 27.

The report, quoted in the Pentagon study, recommended a 100-man increase in the American military advisory mission in Saigon, more American arms and aid for the Vietnamese regional forces known as the Civil Guard, the release of funds for a previously approved expansion of the South Vietnamese Army and the dropping of earlier conditions that President Diem undertake political and social reforms in return. Allied efforts, the report said, should be infused with a sense of urgency to impress friends and foes alike that "come what may, the U.S. intends to win this battle." The emphasis was in the original report.

Even before the report was submitted, it was overtaken by events: The Laotian crisis was at its peak. President Kennedy met with the National Security Council on April 26 to decide whether to send troops into Laos. Late that night the Joint Chiefs of Staff alerted the commander in chief of Pacific forces, Adm. Harry D. Felt, "to be prepared to undertake air strikes against North Vietnam, and possibly southern China," the account reports.

Overnight the Vietnam recommendations changed. "As insurance against a conventional invasion of South Vietnam" through the eastern, mountainous portions of Laos, the Gilpatric task force recommended quick expansion of the South Vietnamese Army by two divisions -- 40,000 men -- plus the first major input of American troops, as training forces, according to the Pentagon study.

The April 28 "Laos annex," the narrative recounts, called for "a 1,600-man [American] training team for each of the two new [South Vietnamese] divisions, plus a 400-man Special Forces contingent to speed up counterinsurgency forces: a total of 3,600 men."

On April 29 -- described in the narrative as a day of "prolonged crisis meetings at the White House" -- Admiral Felt was alerted to prepare to move one American combat brigade of 5,000 men with air elements to northeastern Thailand and another to Danang, on the South Vietnamese coast, as a threat to intervene in Laos. "Decision to make these deployments not firm," the Joint Chiefs of Staff cabled Admiral Felt. The tactics were directly related to the Laos crisis.

Acting on Vietnam that day, the study reports, President Kennedy approved the modest 100-man increase in the American advisory mission and a few other steps suggested in the first Gilpatric task force's report.

"The only substantial significance that can be read into these April 29 decisions," the analyst writes, "is that they signaled a willingness to go beyond the 685-man limit of the U.S. military mission in Saigon." Publicity would have entailed "the first formal breach of the Geneva agreements," the study says, so the move was kept quiet.

By May I the acute fever of the Laos crisis had eased, the account goes on, and there was a "strong sense ... that the U.S. would not go into Laos: that if the cease-fire failed, we would make a strong stand, instead, in Thailand and Vietnam."

Vietnam planning was directly affected. The State Department drafted the first of several revisions to tone down the Gilpatric task force's recommendations. When the task-force report finally went before the National Security Council on May 9, the study recounts, the State Department had largely prevailed. Shortly before that the White House announced that Vice President Johnson was leaving within days for a trip to Saigon and other Asian capitals.

The final task-force report, quoted in the Pentagon account, recommended the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers and an immediate Pentagon study of a further build-up "in preparation for possible commitment of U.S. forces to Vietnam, which might result from an N.S.C. decision following discussions between Vice President Johnson and President Diem." The idea of sending 3,200 other soldiers right away was dropped.

In place of a Pentagon proposal made on May 1 for unilateral American intervention in Vietnam if that became necessary to "save the country from Communism," the final report by the Gilpatric task force proposed a new "bilateral arrangement with Vietnam."

"On the grounds that the Geneva accords have placed inhibitions upon Free World action while at the same time placing no restrictions upon the Communists," the report said, "Ambassador Nolting should be instructed to enter into preliminary discussions with Diem regarding the possibility of a defensive security alliance despite the inconsistency of such action with the Geneva accords .... Communist violations, therefore, justify the establishment of the security arrangements herein recommended."

A Sterner Objective

On May 11, two days after Vice President Johnson's departure for Saigon, President Kennedy made his decisions. As recorded in National Security Action Memorandum 52, a copy of which accompanies the Pentagon study, the American objective was stated more bluntly and more ambitiously than in typical public pronouncements. The memorandum said the American objective was "to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam," whereas six days earlier President Kennedy himself spoke at a news conference of a vaguer desire "to assist Vietnam to obtain its independence."

The memorandum also specified measures that were not disclosed to the public: Presidential approval for the deployment of 400 Special Forces troops, for Ambassador Nolting to start negotiations on "a new bilateral arrangement with Vietnam" and for the initiation of a covert-warfare campaign against North Vietnam.

The one step, in the Pentagon analyst's view, that involved the United States more than the President's public statements suggested was the decision to send Special Forces. "Obviously the President was sold on their going," the study comments, "and since the Vietnamese Special Forces were themselves supported by C.I.A. rather than the regular military-aid program, it was possible to handle these troops covertly."

According to the documentary record, President Kennedy's specific orders on covert warfare called for these steps:

• "Dispatch ... agents to North Vietnam" for intelligence gathering.
• "Infiltrate teams under light civilian cover to southeast Laos to locate and attack Vietnamese Communist bases and lines of communications."
• "In North Vietnam, using the foundation established by intelligence operations, from networks of resistance, covert bases and teams for sabotage and light harassment."
• "Conduct overflights for dropping of leaflets to harass the Communists and to maintain morale of North Vietnamese population, and increase gray [unidentified-source] broadcasts to North Vietnam for the same purposes."
• Train "the South Vietnamese Army to conduct ranger raids and similar military actions in North Vietnam as might prove necessary or appropriate."

The documents also show that Mr. Kennedy approved plans "for the use in North Vietnam operations of civilian air crews of American and other nationality, as appropriate, in addition to Vietnamese." The plans, quoted in full in the final report of the Gilpatric task force, designate the South Vietnamese Army's First Observation Group, stationed at Nhatrang, as the main unit for carrying on unconventional warfare in Laos, South Vietnam and North Vietnam.

In July, 1961, General Lansdale submitted to General Taylor, the President's military adviser, a preliminary report on preparations for this clandestine warfare. By that time, the report said, the First Observation Group had "some limited operations in North Vietnam and some shallow penetrations into Laos." [See Document #22.]

The Lansdale report stated, however, that most of the unit's operations had been directed against the Vietcong in South Vietnam and that this was being changed to focus it entirely on North Vietnam and Laos -- "denied areas," in official terminology.

"The plan is to relieve the group from these combat assignments [against the Vietcong] to ready its full strength for denied-areas missions," General Lansdale said. As of July 6, the unit was to be expanded to 805 men from 340. "Personnel are volunteers who have been carefully screened by security organizations," General Lansdale said. "Many are from North Vietnam. They have been trained for guerrilla operations at the group's training center at Nhatrang."

In addition, the Lansdale report said, 400 selected South Vietnamese soldiers, 60 montagnard tribesmen and 70 civilians were being formed into "additional volunteer groups, apart from the First Observation Group, for similar operations." The general listed 50 Americans -- 35 from the Defense Department and 15 from the C.I.A. -- engaged in training these groups and preparing other South Vietnamese intelligence and psychological-warfare operations. According to the Pentagon study, these were to be augmented by some of the 400 Special Forces soldiers President Kennedy ordered to the field on May 11.

The study does not report on the actual operations of the units during the Kennedy years.

Bernard Fall, in his history "The Two Vietnams," published in 1963, described the organization of the First Observation Group into 15-man combat teams and 24-man support teams. "One such unit was captured near Ninhbinh (180 miles north of the 17th Parallel) in July, 1961, when its aircraft developed engine trouble," Mr. Fall reported.

In July the Hanoi radio, as monitored by the United States Government, carried several English-language broadcasts on the incident, saying that North Vietnam had shot down a plane encroaching on its airspace and describing a number of American-made items to try to authenticate the plane's origin. According to the broadcasts, the plane was marked in red letters "C-47," the oil tank "Douglas Aircraft" and the radio apparatus "Bendix Radio, Baltimore, U.S.A.," and some of the 10 men aboard carried "Colt" automatics. The generator was marked "Signal Corps U.S. Army," one broadcast said.

The North Vietnamese Government announced plans to try three survivors on charges of sabotage and espionage, saying that they confessed to having been trained by Americans who gave them a map and traced out their flight route over North Vietnam. Hanoi protested the incident formally to Britain and the Soviet Union, as co-chairmen of the 1954 Geneva conference on Vietnam, asserting that since May 13, 1961 -- two days after President Kennedy's orders were issued -- the "U.S.-Diem regime" had "continuously carried out espionage and provocative acts against the North."

The North Vietnamese Foreign Minister described the C-47 incident as "an extremely impudent violation of the Geneva agreements." During July and August the North Vietnamese also broadcast descriptions of the build-up of the First Observation Group and the American organization and training of that unit, with details that corresponded almost exactly with the Lansdale report.

The North Vietnamese Government also formally protested several times to the International Control Commission that South Vietnamese units had conducted raids into the demilitarized zone separating the two Vietnams.

On Nov. 1 The New York Times carried a dispatch from Saigon quoting informants as reporting disaffection in North Vietnam and citing as evidence the sabotaging of an industrial plant at Vinh on Aug. 11 and other similar incidents.

Diem at the Fulcrum

President Kennedy's decision in May deferred -- but did not settle -- the issue of combat troops for South Vietnam. Throughout the summer and fall of 1961 the Administration's debate on that crucial matter was significantly affected by the attitude of President Diem, according to the Pentagon account. Initially, it relates, Vice President Johnson found the South Vietnamese leader reluctant; in midsummer he warmed to the idea somewhat; by fall he was appealing to the United States to become a co-belligerent.

The Vietnam troop decisions were also affected by the confrontation with the Soviet Union over Berlin. At his meeting in Vienna with Premier Khrushchev in June, President Kennedy managed to strike a general bargain to seek neutralization in Laos. But the Soviet leader applied pressure on the Berlin issue by threatening to sign a peace treaty with East Germany, making Western access to West Berlin extremely vulnerable. The tension on this issue mounted -- and overshadowed developments in Southeast Asia -- until, on Oct. 17, Premier Khrushchev dropped the idea of the peace treaty with East Germany.

Vice President Johnson, on his whirlwind mission through Asia to bolster the confidence of America's allies, met with President Diem on May 12. According to an embassy report of their meeting, when Mr. Johnson raised the possibility of sending American combat units to Vietnam or working out a bilateral defense treaty, he found Mr. Diem uninterested. The embassy report quoted President Diem as saying he wanted American combat troops only in the event of an open invasion.

In his private report to President Kennedy on May 23, the Vice President painted American alternatives in Asia in blacks and whites, giving Thailand and Vietnam pivotal significance. "We must decide whether to help these countries to the best of our ability," he declared, "or throw in the towel in the area and pull back our defenses to San Francisco and a 'Fortress America' concept." [See Document #21.]

Nonetheless, alluding to President Diem's response on the troop question, Mr. Johnson told Mr. Kennedy: "Asian leaders -- at this time -- do not want American troops involved in Southeast Asia other than on training missions .... This does not minimize or disregard the probability that open attack would bring calls for U.S. combat troops."

If this seemed to close the issue for President Kennedy, as the study indicates, it was not the last word from President Diem. Responding to a suggestion from Vice President Johnson, the South Vietnamese leader spelled out his military proposals in a letter to President Kennedy on June 9.

The letter, quoted extensively in the Pentagon account, urged a major expansion of the South Vietnamese Army, from 170,000 to 270,000 men, accompanied by "considerable" United States build-up with "selected elements of the American armed forces." President Diem said that the increases were needed "to counter the ominous threat" of Communist domination -- a threat that he documented by what the study calls "inflated infiltration figures."

The plea for "selected elements of the American armed forces," according to the Pentagon narrative, sounded "very much like" a request for the kind of forces that the Defense Department had proposed in April and that the American advisory mission in Saigon was urging in midsummer.

The real interest of the Joint Chiefs and other military officers, the account says, was "in getting U.S. combat units into Vietnam, with the training mission a possible device for getting this accepted by Diem" and by civilian leaders in Washington.

The White House, preoccupied by Berlin, sidestepped the issue by agreeing in August to finance a much more modest increase in the Vietnamese Army -- 30,000 men -- and by postponing any build-up of American advisers, according to the study.

Moreover, the writer suggests that the White House was already developing other ideas about Southeast Asia. During the summer discussions, Mr. Rostow once again produced proposals that, in the study's words, were a "quite exact" prescription for President Kennedy's decisions in the fall. In what is described in the account as a handwritten note to Secretary McNamara on a piece of scratch paper, probably passed by hand during a meeting about June 5, Mr. Rostow said:


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

"We need a guerrilla deterrence operation in Thailand's northeast.

"We shall need forces to support a counterguerrilla war in Vietnam:



"communications men

"special forces

"militia teachers



The emphasis on deterrence was Mr. Rostow's.

In late fall President Diem jolted the Kennedy Administration into its most urgent consideration of the troop issue -- and its most significant military decisions -- with a sudden, secret request for the bilateral defense treaty he previously spurned.

On Sept. 29 the study recounts, Mr. Diem had a gloomy meeting with American officials, and Ambassador Nolting sent Washington this cablegram:

"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 U.K. and France in the case of SVN as in Laos ....

"Our reaction is that the request should be seriously and carefully treated to prevent feeling that U.S. is not serious in intention 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 [to] infiltration and lead to large-scale hostilities in SVN. So seeking a stronger commitment than he thinks he has now through SEATO."

Admiral Felt, the Pacific commander, who was also present at the Sept. 29 meeting, cabled a fuller report several days later saying that President Diem wanted not only a treaty but also an accelerated American "military build-up." Specifically, Admiral Felt said, the President pressed for a "large increase in advisers of all types" and American tactical air squadrons to help break up the larger Vietcong units that had recently been massing for attacks.

The Felt message explained that the stepped-up scale of combat in Vietnam was worrying President Diem as much as the threat of infiltration or attack from the Laotian side, if not more. It added: "Diem said VC now able to assemble large units, had extensive radio net, operating in one or more battalions with heavy arms capable of raiding principle cities in provinces .... Could enter a city, burn out stores, attack leaders, withdraw."

The Pentagon narrative explains that the Vietcong, now believed to be 17,000 strong, had nearly tripled the level of their attacks to 450 a month in September.

"The most spectacular attack, which seems to have had a shattering effect in Saigon," the writer goes on, "was the seizure of Phuocthanh, a provincial capital only 55 miles from Saigon," where the Vietcong held the town most of the day and publicly beheaded the province chief, departing before the South Vietnamese Army arrived.

For Washington the situation had become more alarming than it was in the spring. Then Laos was the primary cause of Vietnam's jitters. "This time," the study comments, "the problem was not directly Laos, but strong indications of moderate deterioration of Diem's military position and very substantial deterioration of morale in Saigon."

Even before President Diem's request for a treaty, momentum for American intervention in Southeast Asia had been mounting.

By early October, the Pentagon papers recount, several proposals had emerged: The Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated allied intervention to seize and hold major portions of Laos, mainly to protect the borders of South Vietnam and Thailand; the "Rostow proposal" urged sending a force of about 25,000 men from the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization into Vietnam to try to guard the border with Laos; and several other plans suggested putting American forces into the Vietnamese Central Highlands or the port of Danang, with or without a training mission.

In the bureaucratic maneuvering that led up to the important National Security Council meeting of Oct. 11, a significant new element was injected.

For the first time, the study notes, a proposal was put before President Kennedy urging that the United States accept "as our real and ultimate objective the defeat of the Vietcong." The analyst says this was suggested in a compromise paper drafted hastily by U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary of State. The paper said that "three divisions would be a guess" on the number of American troops needed but that a more precise estimate would be forthcoming from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The study describes this as a "somewhat confusing" blend of earlier proposals by Mr. Rostow and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put together on Oct. 10. "It was pretty clear," the account continues, "that the main idea was to get some American combat troops into Vietnam, with the nominal excuse for doing so quite secondary."

The Joint Chiefs provided a supplemental note estimating "that 40,000 U.S. forces will be needed to clean up the Vietcong threat" and that 128,000 additional soldiers would be sufficient to cope with possible North Vietnamese or Chinese Communist intervention. The note, which accompanies the historical study, cited the Berlin crisis as another strain on American military manpower and urged "a step-up in the present mobilization, possibly of major proportions."

A third paper, which the narrative terms notable for its candor, also advocated "early and hard-hitting" intervention in Vietnam. This paper, a note to Secretary McNamara from William P. Bundy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, said:

"It is really now or never if we are to arrest the gains being made by the Vietcong. Walt Rostow made the point yesterday that the Vietcong are about to move, by every indication, from the small-unit basis to a moderate battalion-size basis. Intelligence also suggests that they may try to set up a provisional government' ... in the very Kontum area into which the present initial plan would move SEATO forces. If the Vietcong movement 'blooms' in this way, it will almost certainly attack all the back-the-winner sentiment that understandably prevails in such cases and that beat the French in early 1954 and came within an ace of beating Diem in early 1955."

Mr. Bundy bluntly put the odds as he saw them:

"An early and hard-hitting operation has a good chance (70 per cent would be my guess) of arresting things and giving Diem a chance to do better and clean up . . . It all depends on Diem's effectiveness, which is very problematical. The 30 per cent chance is that we would wind up like the French in 1954; white men can't win this kind of fight.

"On a 70-30 basis, I would myself favor going in. But if we let, say, a month go by before we move, the odds will slide ... down to 60-40, 50-50 and so on."

The italics are Mr. Bundy's.

The intelligence community provided what the study calls a "conspicuously more pessimistic (and more realistic)" assessment than the formal recommendations of the Pentagon or Mr. Rostow. In spite of all the American worry about infiltration into South Vietnam through Laos, a special national intelligence estimate on Oct. 5 reported "that 80-90 per cent of the estimated 17,000 VC had been locally recruited, and that there was little evidence that the VC relied on external supplies," according to the Pentagon account.

The intelligence estimate also included a warning about the kind of enemy shrewdness and tenacity that became reality. The estimate, drafted while the Administration was thinking primarily of SEATO -- rather than unilateral American -- intervention, forecast:

"The Communists would expect worthwhile political and psychological rewards from successful harassment and guerrilla operations against SEATO forces. The D.R.V. would probably not relax its Vietcong campaign against the GVN [Government of (South) Vietnam] to any significant extent. Meanwhile, Communist strength in south Laos would probably be increased by forces from North Vietnam to guard against an effort to partition Laos. . . . The Soviet airlift would probably be increased with a heavier flow of military supply into south Laos .... "

Confronted with such conflicting advice, President Kennedy decided to send General Taylor to Saigon. According to minutes of the National Security Council meeting on Oct. 11, quoted in the Pentagon account, the general was instructed to consider three strategies:

• Bold intervention to "defeat the Vietcong," using up to three divisions of American troops.
• Sending "fewer U.S. combat forces" to Vietnam, not to crush the insurgency but "for the purpose of establishing a U.S. 'presence' in Vietnam."
• "Stepping up U.S. assistance and training of Vietnam units, furnishing of more U.S. equipment, particularly helicopters and other light aircraft, trucks and other ground transport" -- short of using American combat forces.

The minutes said President Kennedy was to announce the Taylor mission, at an afternoon news conference, "as an economic survey." But, the account says, the President did "not make the hardly credible claim that he was sending his personal military adviser to Vietnam to do an economic survey." After a vaguely worded announcement, the narrative relates, President Kennedy was "noncommittal when asked whether Taylor was going to consider the need for combat troops."

Even before General Taylor and his party could leave Washington, the Diem Government had sent new and urgent requests for American combat troops. Ambassador Nolting reported to Washington on Oct. 13 that Nguyen Dinh Thuan, the Vietnamese Acting Defense Minister, had requested: "U.S. combat units or units to be introduced into SVN as 'combat trainer units' ... Wanted a symbolic U.S. strength near the 17th [Parallel] to prevent attacks there, free own forces there. Similar purpose station U.S. units in several provincial seats in Central Highlands. . . . Thuan said first step quicker than [defense] treaty and time was of the essence. Thuan said token forces would satisfy SVN and would be better than treaty." [See Document #25.]

The South Vietnamese Government's state of alarm was communicated by Mr. Nolting's additional report that Saigon was considering asking Nationalist China "to send one division of combat troops in the southwest." Ambassador Nolting said he had tried to discourage this approach.

The Pentagon study goes on to report that Administration officials effectively squelched press speculation about the troop question with carefully managed news leaks at this point.

It cites a dispatch on Oct. 14 in The New York Times reporting that military leaders, including General Taylor, were reluctant to send combat units to Vietnam and that this question was "near the bottom of the list" of things the general would consider.

From the way the dispatch was handled, the account says, it clearly "came from a source authorized to speak for the President, and probably from the President himself." He adds that "in the light of the recommendations quoted throughout this paper, and particularly most of the staff papers ... that led up to the Taylor mission, most of this was simply untrue." But he concludes: "The Times story had the apparently desired effect. Speculation about combat troops almost disappeared from news stories."
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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State of Emergency

The Taylor mission arrived in Saigon on Oct. 18 and was greeted by what the Pentagon study calls a "spectacular opening shot": President Diem's formal declaration of a state of emergency. Within the next week General Taylor met twice with the chief of state.

According to an embassy message to Washington on Oct. 20, President Diem told General Taylor at their first meeting that he wanted a bilateral defense treaty, American support for another expansion of the South Vietnamese Army and a list of combat-support items very close to those suggested in June by Mr. Rostow in his handwritten note to Secretary McNamara.

"He asked specifically for tactical aviation, helicopter companies, coastal patrol forces and logistic support (ground transport) ," the embassy report said. He did not, however, repeat the earlier request for actual American ground combat units.

By the second Diem-Taylor meeting, on Oct. 24, American and South Vietnamese officials had discussed the disastrous flooding in the Mekong River Delta, where the American military advisory mission, headed by Lieut. Gen. Lionel C. McGarr, thought American troops might be of some help.

General Taylor had incorporated this idea in a series of recommendations, which he put before President Diem at the second meeting. Item E, the study reports, was headed "Introduction of U.S. Combat Troops," and it proposed "a flood-relief task force, largely military in composition, to work with GVN over an extended period for rehabilitation of area. Such a force might contain engineer, medical, signal and transportation elements as well as combat troops for the protection of relief operations."

The general directed two messages to Washington after that meeting, both quoted in the Pentagon account. The first, sent through regular channels, reported that President Diem's reaction to all of General Taylor's recommendations -- including the flood-relief task force -- "was favorable."

In his second message, sent privately to President Kennedy and the President's most senior advisers, General Taylor was more specific. He proposed a force of 6,000 to 8,000 American soldiers, not only to cope with the flooding but significantly, as the narrative points out, to assure "Diem of our readiness to join him in a military showdown with Vietcong or Vietminh." [See Documents #26 and #27.]

General Taylor said that he envisioned mostly logistics forces but that "some combat troops" would be necessary to defend the American engineer troops and their encampments. He warned that "any troops coming to VN may expect to take casualties."

The general underscored the propaganda advantage of relating the introduction of American ground troops to the need for flood relief as "offering considerable advantages in VN and abroad" and leaving President Kennedy his choice on further action. "As the task is a specific one," he explained, "we can extricate our troops when it is done if we so desire. Alternatively, we can phase them into other activities if we wish to remain longer."

He acknowledged, in conclusion: "This kind of task force will exercise little direct influence on the campaign against the VC. It will, however, give a much needed shot in the arm to national morale."

General Taylor's proposals engendered State Department opposition. His messages, evidently relayed to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was in Japan for a conference, prompted Mr. Rusk to cable Washington, warning about the risks of making a military commitment without reciprocal political reforms by President Diem.

According to his Nov. 1 message, which is appended to the Pentagon study, Mr. Rusk said that if, as previously, the South Vietnamese leader was not willing to trust his military commanders more and to take steps to bring more non- Communist elements into influential roles, it was "difficult to see how handful of American troops can have decisive influence." While attaching the "greatest possible importance" to the security of Southeast Asia, Mr. Rusk expressed reluctance to see American prestige committed too deeply for the sake of "a losing horse."

Similar reservations were already reflected by reports from two middle-level State Department members of General Taylor's mission. Sterling J. Cottrell and William J. Jorden submitted separate dissents to General Taylor on their way home by way of Bangkok and the Philippines.

Mr. Cottrell, head of the interagency Vietnam task force in Washington, asserted in a memorandum dated Oct. 27 that "since U.S. combat troops of division size cannot be employed effectively, they should not be introduced at this stage" despite the "favorable psychological lift" it would give the Vietnamese.

"Since it is an open question whether the GVN can succeed even with U.S. assistance," he went on, "it would be a mistake for the U.S. to commit itself irrevocably to the defeat of the Communists in SVN." But if combined American and Vietnamese efforts failed in the South, he recommended moving "to the 'Rostow plan' of applying graduated punitive measures on the D.R.V. with weapons of our choosing."

Mr. Jorden reported finding explosive pressures for political and administrative change in South Vietnam as well as "near paralysis" in parts of the Government because so many decisions had to await personal approval by President Diem. Many Government officials and military officers, he said, "have lost confidence in President Diem and his leadership." He urged that the United States not identify itself "with a man or a regime."

Quite contrary pressures were being exerted on Washington, however, by the American mission in Saigon. On Oct. 31, the study says, the embassy reported to Washington the Vietnamese people's "virtually unanimous desire" for the introduction of American troops.

From Baguio, in the Philippines, where he had stopped to draft his formal report with Mr. Rostow and his other aides, General Taylor sent two more messages to President Kennedy on Nov. 1, urging a commitment of a "U.S. military task force" to Vietnam.

But, the messages show, he now listed the flood-relief mission as secondary to the objective of providing 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."

Writing in more sweeping language than he used in Saigon a week before, the general now advocated a "massive joint effort" with the South Vietnamese "to cope with both the Vietcong and the ravages of the flood." The presence of American ground units, he said, was "essential" to "reverse the present downward trend of events."

His second message discounted the risks of sliding into a major Asian land war accidentally and sought to assure President Kennedy that the American troops would not be aggressively hunting down the Vietcong guerrillas though they would be involved in some combat. He wrote:

"This force is not proposed to clear the jungles and forests of Vietcong 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. advisers 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."

The parenthetical matter was in General Taylor's original cablegram.

The message also repeated the theme, attributed by the analyst and by Mr. Cottrell to Mr. Rostow, that bombing of North Vietnam could be used as a diplomatic threat to hold Hanoi at bay.

The language of all of General Taylor's messages, the Pentagon study comments, suggests that the support forces -- helicopter companies, the expanded advisory mission, tactical air support -- "were essentially already agreed to by the President before Taylor left Washington."

The general's interest, the study explains, was in getting a commitment of "ground forces (not necessarily all or even mainly infantrymen, but ground soldiers who would be out in the countryside where they could he shot at and shoot back)." His argument for ground troops, the study observes, was based more on "psychological than military reasons."

The formal report by the Taylor mission, submitted on Nov. 3, incorporated the proposal for what the analyst calls a "hard commitment on the ground" and other measures, all under the over-all concept of a new American role in Vietnam: "limited partnership." The drift of the report, which the Pentagon narrative says was probably written with Mr. Rostow, was reflected in the proposal that the American military advisory mission in Saigon not only should be "radically increased" but also should undertake more active direction of the war by becoming "something nearer [to] -- but not quite -- an operational headquarters in a theater of war."

The main evaluation section, the study comments, "puts Saigon's weakness in the best light and avoids suggesting that perhaps the U.S. should consider limiting rather than increasing commitments to the Diem regime."

The dissents of Mr. Cottrell and Mr. Jorden were submitted, along with a military annex, which said: "The performance of ARVN [the Army of South Vietnam] is disappointing and generally is characterized by a lack of aggressiveness and at most levels is devoid of a sense of urgency."

The Taylor report, the Pentagon account notes, proposed solving this type of problem through administrative reforms in the army and the infusion of Americans. The writer comments that there was no serious demand for pressing President Diem to make the kind of reforms that Secretary Rusk felt necessary.

Moreover, the Pentagon study notes two important underlying assumptions for the report. The first was that South Vietnamese problems -- whether the Army's lack of spirit or President Diem's bottlenecks -- "could be cured if enough dedicated Americans become involved." There was great implicit faith, the study goes on, that Americans could provide the South Vietnamese "with the elan and style needed to win."

The second major assumption, the analyst notes, was that "if worse comes to worst, the U.S. could probably save its position in Vietnam by bombing the North."

Both these assumptions, as the Pentagon narrative recounts in later sections, were essential ingredients of the advice given to President Johnson in late 1964 and 1965, as he made the decisions to move forcefully into the war.

As the Taylor recommendations were submitted to President Kennedy, he also received a special national intelligence estimate forecasting that American escalation would be matched by Hanoi. According to the Pentagon account, the Nov. 5 estimate considered four possibilities -- expanding the American advisory mission, plus an American airlift for Vietnamese troops; sending an 8,000-to-10,000-man flood-relief task force; sending a 25,000-to-40,000-man combat force, and warning Hanoi, in conjunction with any of those steps, that the United States "would launch air attacks against North Vietnam" unless Hanoi stopped supporting the Vietcong.

"The gist" of the intelligence estimate, the Pentagon account says, "was that the North Vietnamese would respond to an increased U.S. commitment with an offsetting increase in infiltrated support for the Vietcong." The greater the American involvement, the intelligence estimate prophesied, the stronger the North Vietnamese reaction. The estimate also implied, the narrative goes on, that "threats to bomb would not cause Hanoi to stop its support for the Vietcong, and . . . actual attacks on the North would bring a strong response from Moscow and Peiping. . . ."

Nonetheless, the Taylor recommendations received backing from Secretary McNamara, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a memo on Nov. 8 to President Kennedy, reprinted in the study, Mr. McNamara summarized their position:

"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.

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

But the memorandum warned President Kennedy that the 8,000-man task force "probably will not tip the scales decisively," meaning that "we would be almost certain to get increasingly mired down in an inconclusive struggle."

"In short," the study comments, "the President was being told that the issue was not whether to send an 8,000-man task force, but whether or not to embark on a course that, without some extraordinary good luck, would lead to combat involvement in Southeast Asia on a very substantial scale."

The Pentagon narrative says that while the Joint Chiefs' position was clear, Mr. McNamara's position "remains a little ambiguous," especially in view of his qualified phrase "inclined to recommend" sending ground troops. The implication seems to be that Secretary McNamara was willing to go along with the Joint Chiefs to this extent to draw them out for President Kennedy on the full, long-term meaning of their recommendations.

Moreover, as the study records, three days later Mr. McNamara joined Mr. Rusk in a quite different recommendation and, the analyst says, "one obviously more to the President's liking (and, in the nature of such things, quite possibly drawn up to the President's specifications)." [See Document #30.]

This memorandum, almost totally adopted by President Kennedy as policy, contained stronger rhetoric than the earlier McNamara note but milder recommendations. The memorandum, quoted nearly in full in the Pentagon account, began with a strong exposition of the domino theory:

"The loss of South Vietnam would make pointless any further discussion about the importance of Southeast Asia to the Free World; we would have to face the near certainty that the remainder of Southeast Asia and Indonesia would move to a complete accommodation with Communism, if not formal incorporation within the Communist bloc."

The language on the troop issue, omitting any mention of the flood-relief task force, seems carefully drafted:

"The commitment of United States forces to South Vietnam involves two different categories: (A) units of modest size required for the direct support of South Vietnamese military effort, such as communications, helicopter and other forms of airlift, reconnaisance aircraft, naval patrols, intelligence units, etc., and (B) larger organized units with actual or potential direct military missions. Category (A) should be introduced as speedily as possible. Category (B) units pose a more serious problem. . .. "

The italicized emphasis is in the original document.

The two Secretaries recommended that the United States "now take the decision to commit ourselves to the objective of preventing the fall of South Vietnam 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." But for the present it said only that the Pentagon should prepare plans for ground combat forces.

Three lines of reasoning for opposing a commitment of ground combat troops emerge from this document.

The first and possibly the most significant, the Pentagon study suggests, is that such a move "prior to a Laotian settlement would run a considerable risk of stimulating a Communist breach of the cease-fire and a resumption of hostilities in Laos," leaving the President the unattractive choice of "the use of combat forces in Laos or an abandonment of that country to full Communist control." The second reason was the need "to involve forces from other nations" as well; otherwise it would be "difficult to explain to our own people why no effort had been made to invoke SEATO or why the United States undertook to carry this burden unilaterally." The third was the dilemma underlying the troop proposals -- that "if there is a strong South Vietnamese effort, they may not be needed [but] if there is not such an effort, United States forces could not accomplish their mission in the midst of an apathetic or hostile population."

The Rusk-McNam3ra memorandum fully acknowledged that even sending support troops and more advisers would mean openly exceeding military ceilings imposed by the 1954 Geneva accords. The memorandum proposed an exchange of letters with President Diem in which President Kennedy would assert "the necessity now of exceeding some provisions of the accords in view of the D.R.V. violations." It also called for the release of a white paper, "A Threat to Peace," reporting on infiltration from North Vietnam and on Vietcong terrorism.

Embracing the essence of Mr. Rusk's message from Japan, the joint memorandum added a demand for reform from President Diem before the United States build-up would be put in motion.

The President accepted all major recommendations, according to the study, except for the unqualified commitment to the goal of saving South Vietnam from Communism. His decisions were formally embodied on Nov. 22 in a national security action memorandum, No. 111, entitled "First Phase of Vietnam Program."

But on Nov. 14 Washington sent a summary of the President's decisions -- evidently made the day before -- to Ambassador Nolting. The message demanded "concrete demonstration by Diem that he is now prepared to work in an orderly way [with] his subordinates and broaden the political base of his regime." For the first time it sought to inject the United States more deeply into managing the war by asserting: "We would expect to share in the decision-making process in the political, economic and military fields as they affect the security situation."

Possibly to assuage President Diem's expected disappointment, it noted that the decision on combat-support troops and many more advisers "will sharply increase the commitment of our prestige to save SVN." It concluded by asserting that while the Pentagon was preparing contingency plans for ground combat forces, the "objective of our policy is to do all possible to accomplish [our] purpose without use of U.S. combat forces."

No Presidential paper in the Pentagon record clearly details Mr. Kennedy's thinking, but two documents shed light: the Nov. 14 message and some unsigned notes of a National Security Council meeting that, according to the Pentagon account, took place on Nov. 15.

The notes included these entries: "Pres expressed concern over 2-front war. Another bother him, no overt Chicom aggression in SVN, unlike Korea. These Diem's own people; difficult operating area. If go beyond advisers need other nations with us ... Pres receiving static from Congress; they against using U.S. troops."

At another point, Mr. Kennedy reportedly asked why it was important to retain South Vietnam and Laos. The notes record the reply from Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "We would lose Asia all the way Singapore. Serious setback to U.S. and PFW. [free world]."

President Kennedy was also reportedly concerned about the lack of support from the British and worried about the proposed letter acknowledging that the United States would be breaking the Geneva accords. "Pres asked Rusk," the notes say, "why do we take onus, saying we are going to break Geneva accords (in letter to Diem). Why not remain silent. Don't say this ourselves. Directed State to reword letter." The parentheses were in the original notes.

The Nov. 14 message reflects similar reasoning. The implication is that one important consideration for President Kennedy was fear that sending ground combat forces to South Vietnam, in the language of the message, "might wreck chances for agreement" in Laos and lead to a breakdown of the cease-fire there.

A second drawback cited in the message was the risk of provoking confrontations with the Soviet Union elsewhere -- the "two front" problem -- especially in Berlin where the acute crisis had eased less than a month before.

The decision disappointed President Diem who, according to the Pentagon study, was seeking a firm U.S. commitment to him. The account reports that Ambassador Nolting cabled Washington on Nov. 18 to say that the South Vietnamese leader had immediately inquired about ground combat units. After hearing Mr. Nolting's response, the Ambassador said, President Diem "took our proposals rather better than I expected." Two days later the Ambassador said he was getting high-level reports that President Diem was upset and brooding.

If this was a bargaining tactic to get the United States to back down on its demands for reform, the study says, it worked. On Dec. 7 Washington sent the embassy new instructions, the account goes on, softening demands for reforms and settling for "close partnership" and frequent consultation with the South Vietnamese Government rather than insisting, as before, on taking part in decision-making.

Whether intentionally or not, the Pentagon study contends, the over-all effect of these actions was to give the military side of the war higher priority than the political side.

"To continue to support Diem without reform," the study comments, "meant quite simply that he, not we, would determine the course of the counterinsurgent effort and that the steps he took to assure his continuance in power would continue to take priority over all else." The account says that this emphasis came to plague the Kennedy Administration when South Vietnamese disaffection with the Diem regime boiled over in 1963.

Copters and Casualties

Even before the American decisions on the troop build-up were announced formally on Dec. 14 with a public exchange of letters between Presidents Kennedy and Diem, the first two American helicopter companies had arrived -- 400 men with 33 H-21C helicopters. On Feb. 5 the press reported that the first helicopter had been shot down by the enemy.

Despite the Administration's efforts to draw a careful bureaucratic distinction between support troops ("Category A") and combat troops ("Category B"), this was hard to maintain in the field. The study records without comment that by mid-February President Kennedy was asked at a news conference if the Administration was being "less than candid" about American involvement in Vietnam. He acknowledged that American troops were "firing back" to protect themselves although he contended that these were not combat troops "in the generally understood sense of the word."

The Pentagon study goes on to record that on April 11, two days after two American soldiers were killed in a Vietcong ambush while on a combat operation with Vietnamese troops, President Kennedy was asked at a news conference: "Sir, what are you going to do about the American soldiers getting killed in Vietnam?"

In reply, the President said: "We are attempting to help Vietnam maintain its independence and not fall under the domination of the Communists ... We cannot desist in Vietnam." Months later, he admitted to increased casualties along with the build-up he ordered.

According to Pentagon records, nearly 10 times as many Americans were killed or wounded in action in 1962 as in 1961 -- figures closely paralleling the tenfold build-up in American forces to 11,000 men by the end of 1962. The Pentagon statistics show that the number of killed and wounded in combat increased from 14 in 1961 to 109 in 1962 and to 489 in 1963.

Although the Pentagon study describes the Kennedy years as a period of new commitments, it does not indicate whether in this case President Kennedy -- by putting American airmen in position to fly tactical air missions and ground advisers to take part in combat operations with South Vietnamese units -- crossed an important firebreak in the American involvement in Vietnam.

Documents accompanying the Pentagon study amply recount the rapid tempo of the American build-up -- rapid by standards of the previous seven years. A military briefing paper for the President on Jan. 9, 1962, cited in the Pentagon account reported:

• The number of American servicemen in Vietnam jumped from 948 at the end of November to 2,646 by Jan. 9 and would reach 5,576 by June 30.
• Two Army helicopter companies were flying combat support missions and an air commando unit code-named Jungle Jim was "instructing the Vietnamese Air Force in combat air support tactics and techniques."
• United States Navy Mine Division 73, with a tender and five minesweepers, was sailing from Danang along the coastline.
• American aircraft from Thailand and from the Seventh Fleet aircraft carriers off Vietnam were flying surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Vietnam.
• Six C-123 spray-equipped aircraft "for support of defoliant operations" had "received diplomatic clearance" to enter South Vietnam.

At a news conference on March 18, 1962, Secretary McNamara acknowledged under questioning that American "training" of the South Vietnamese "occasionally takes place under combat conditions." He added that "there has been sporadic fire aimed at U.S. personnel, and in a few minor instances they have returned the fire in self-defense." News reports in the spring of 1962 told of American pilots flying in the front, or action, seats of "trainer" aircraft while Vietnamese trainees rode behind.

A Spurt of Optimism

Whatever public uneasiness was expressed in the news-conference questions, the Pentagon study notes, official American assessments on the war in the spring and summer of 1962 took on an increasingly favorable tenor.

One special object of praise and of American official confidence, the account notes, was the development of the strategic-hamlet program as an all-embracing counterguerrilla strategy in rural Vietnam. But the Pentagon study comments that the optimism proved misplaced.

Government documents available in the Pentagon records describe this strategy as a program to regroup the Vietnamese population into fortified hamlets in which the Government was to undertake political, social and economic measures designed both to weed out Vietcong sympathizers and to gain popular allegiance through improved local services and better security.

President Diem formally adopted the strategy for the Mekong Delta in mid-March, 1962, and made it nationwide in August. By Sept. 30, according to the study, the Diem Government was stating that more than a third of the total rural population was living in completed hamlets.

One flaw inherent in this strategy, the Pentagon study asserts, was that Saigon and Washington had different objectives for it: President Diem saw it as a means of controlling his population, non-Communist as well as Communist, while Washington saw it as a means of winning greater allegiance and thereby squeezing out the Vietcong.

Moreover, the account goes on, popular allegiance was so difficult to assess that even American officials turned increasingly to physical aspects of the program for statistical evaluations of progress. It left them vulnerable, the study notes, to exaggerated Vietnamese reports, which they did not uncover until after the Diem Government had been overthrown in 1963.

Fundamentally, the Pentagon analysts assert, the strategic hamlets "failed dismally," like previous programs tried by the French and the Vietnamese, "because they ran into resentment if not active resistance" from peasants who objected to being moved forcibly from their fields and their ancestral homes.

The Pentagon study lays "a principal responsibility for the unfounded optimism of U.S. policy" in 1962 and early 1963 on inadequate and relatively uninformed American intelligence and reporting systems. The official optimism, the Pentagon account discloses, reached its peak in the plans for an American military "phase-out" in Vietnam on the assumption that the war against the Vietcong would be won by the end of 1965.

The tone was set, the analyst writes at a Honolulu conference on Vietnam strategy. On July 23, 1962, the same day that the Laotian peace agreement was signed in Geneva, Secretary McNamara ordered the start of planning for American withdrawal from Vietnam and long-term projections for reducing American financial aid to the Saigon Government.

Mr. McNamara is depicted in the study as repeatedly pressing the somewhat reluctant military command to come up with a long-range plan for an American phase-out, in part because of satisfaction with what he called the "tremendous progress" in early 1962.

But Mr. McNamara's orders also reflected domestic political problems. At the Honolulu conference, the account says, "he observed that it might be difficult to retain public support for U.S. operations indefinitely."

"Political pressures would build up as losses continued," it added.

The Pentagon account gives no indication that this planning was personally originated by President Kennedy or that it was ever presented to him in completed form. For roughly 18 months, with little urgency, documents flowed back and forth between Mr. McNamara and the American military mission in Saigon through Pentagon channels, with Mr. McNamara constantly urging lower budget figures and reduction to 1,500 American troops by late 1968. Even so, the President was told in February, 1963, by a senior White House aide, Michael V. Forrestal, to expect a long and costly war.

"No one really knows," Mr. Forrestal wrote in a report to Mr. Kennedy on Feb. 11, "how many of the 20,000 'Vietcong' killed last year were only innocent, or at least persuadable, villagers, whether the strategic hamlet program is providing enough govt. services to counteract the sacrifices it requires, or how the mute mass of villagers react to the charges against Diem of dictatorship and nepotism." The report, which accompanies the Pentagon study, went on to say that Vietcong recruitment inside South Vietnam was so effective that the war could be continued even without infiltration from the North.

Moreover, while the phase-out planning continued, the American involvement grew to 16,732 men in October, 1963. And the analyst comments that once the political struggle began in earnest against President Diem in May, 1963, this planning took on an "absurd quality" based on "the most Micawberesque predictions" of progress.

"Strangely," the Pentagon study continues, "as a result of the public White House promise in October and the power of the wheels set in motion, the U.S. did effect a 1,000-man withdrawal in December of 1963." But the study discounts this as "essentially an accounting exercise" offset in part by troop rotations.

Because of the complete political upheaval against the Diem regime in 1963, the situation deteriorated so profoundly in the final five months of the Kennedy Administration, according to a private report from Secretary McNamara quoted in the study, that the entire phase-out had to be formally dropped in early 1964.

Thus, the Pentagon study relates, in spite of the military build-up under the Kennedy Administration, President Kennedy left President Johnson a Vietnamese legacy of crisis, of political instability and of military deterioration at least as alarming to policy makers as the situation he had inherited from the Eisenhower Administration.

The decision to build up the combat support and advisory missions, the Pentagon study comments, was made "almost by default" because the Kennedy Administration was focused so heavily in the fall of 1961 on the question of sending ground combat units to Vietnam. That decision, the analyst writes, was reached "without extended study or debate" or precise expectation of what it would achieve.

Despite the tens of thousands of words in the Pentagon account of the Kennedy Administration, backed by scores of documents, the study does not provide a conclusive answer to the most vigorously debated question about President Kennedy's Vietnam policy since his death in November, 1963: If President Kennedy had lived until 1965, would he have felt compelled by events, as President Johnson was, to undertake full-scale land war in South Vietnam and an air war against the North?

The situation, as the Pentagon account discloses, had changed significantly between 1961 and 1965. In 1961 President Kennedy was confronted by other crises -- Berlin, Cuba, Laos- -- ile he faced his harshest decisions on Vietnam, and these acted as restraints; President Johnson did not have quite the same distractions elsewhere. Too, President Diem never pushed so aggressively for American escalation as did Gen. Nguyen Khanh, the South Vietnamese leader in 1964 and 1965. Nor, as the analysts note, had other measures short of full-scale air and ground combat been exhausted, without producing success.

The Pentagon account, moreover, presents the picture of an unbroken chain of decision-making from the final months of the Kennedy Administration into the early months of the Johnson Administration, whether in terms of the political view of the American stakes in Vietnam, the advisory buildup or the hidden growth of covert warfare against North Vietnam.

"No reliable inference can be drawn," the Pentagon study concludes, "about how Kennedy would have behaved in 1965 and beyond had he lived. (One of those who had advised retaining freedom of action on the issue of sending U.S. combat troops was Lyndon Johnson.) It does not prove that Kennedy behaved soundly in 1961. Many people will think so; but others will argue that the most difficult problem of recent years might have been avoided if the U.S. had made a hard commitment on the ground in South Vietnam in 1961."


Following are texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, dealing with the Administration of President John F. Kennedy up to the events that brought the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents are printed verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

#16: U.S. Ambassador's '60 Analysis of Threats to Saigon Regime

Cablegram from Elbridge Durbrow, United States Ambassador in Saigon, to Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, Sept. 16, 1960.

As indicated our 495 and 538 Diem regime confronted by two separate but related dangers. Danger from demonstrations or coup attempt in Saigon could occur earlier; likely to be predominantly non-Communistic in origin but Communists can be expected to endeavor infiltrate and exploit any such attempt. Even more serious danger is gradual Viet Cong extension of control over countryside which, if current Communist progress continues, would mean loss free Viet-nam to Communists. These two dangers are related because Communist successes in rural areas embolden them to extend their activities to Saigon and because non- Communist temptation to engage in demonstrations or coup is partly motivated by sincere desire prevent Communist take-over in Viet-nam.

Essentially [word illegible] sets of measures required to meet these two dangers. For Saigon danger essentially political and psychological measures required. For countryside danger security measures as well as political, psychological and economic measures needed. However both sets measures should be carried out simultaneously and to some extent individual steps will be aimed at both dangers.

Security recommendations have been made in our 539 and other messages, including formation internal security council, centralized intelligence, etc. This message therefore deals with our political and economic recommendations. I realize some measures I am recommending are drastic and would be most [word illegible] for an ambassador to make under normal circumstances. But conditions here are by no means normal. Diem government is in quite serious danger. Therefore, in my opinion prompt and even drastic action is called for. I am well aware that Diem has in past demonstrated astute judgment and has survived other serious crises. Possibly his judgment will prove superior to ours this time, but I believe nevertheless we have no alternative but to give him our best judgment of what we believe is required to preserve his government. While Diem obviously resented my frank talks earlier this year and will probably resent even more suggestions outlined below, he has apparently acted on some of our earlier suggestions and might act on at least some of the following:

1. I would propose have frank and friendly talk with Diem and explain our serious concern about present situation and his political position. I would tell him that, while matters I am raising deal primarily with internal affairs, I would like to talk to him frankly and try to be as helpful as I can be giving him the considered judgment of myself and some of his friends in Washington on appropriate measures to assist him in present serious situation. (Believe it best not indicate talking under instructions.) I would particularly stress desirability of actions to broaden and increase his [word illegible] support prior to 1961 presidential elections required by constitution before end April. I would propose following actions to President:

2. Psychological shock effect is required to take initiative from Communist propagandists as well as non-Communist oppositionists and convince population government taking effective measures to deal with present situation, otherwise we fear matters could get out of hand. To achieve that effect following suggested:

(A) Because of Vice President Tho's knowledge of south where Communist guerrilla infiltration is increasing so rapidly would suggest that he be shifted from ministry national economy to ministry interior. (Diem has already made this suggestion but Vice President most reluctant take job.)

(B) It is important to remove any feeling within armed forces that favoritism and political considerations motivate promotions and assignments. Also vital in order deal effectively with Viet Cong threat that channels of command be followed both down and up. To assist in bringing about these changes in armed forces, I would suggest appointment of full-time minister national defense. (Thuan has indicated Diem has been thinking of giving Thuan defense job.)

(C) Rumors about Mr. and Mrs. Nhu are creating growing dissension within country and seriously damage political position of Diem government. Whether rumors true or false, politically important fact is that more and more people believe them to be true. Therefore, becoming increasingly clear that in interest Diem government some action should be taken. In analogous situation in other countries including U.S. important, useful government personalities have had to be sacrificed for political reasons. I would suggest therefore that President might appoint Nhu to ambassadorship abroad.

(D) Similarly Tran Kim Tuyen, Nhu's henchman and head of secret intelligence service, should be sent abroad in diplomatic capacity because of his growing identification in public mind with alleged secret police methods of repression and control.

(E) One or two cabinet ministers from opposition should be appointed to demonstrate Diem's desire to establish government of national union in fight against VC.

3. Make public announcement of disbandment of Can Lao party or at least its surfacing, with names and positions of all members made known publicly. Purpose this step would be to eliminate atmosphere of fear and suspicion and reduce public belief in favoritism and corruption, all of which party's semi-covert status has given rise to.

4. Permit National Assembly wider legislative initiative and area of genuine debate and bestow on it authority to conduct, with appropriate publicity, public investigations of any department of government with right to question any official except President himself. This step would have three-fold purpose: (A) find some mechanism for dispelling through public investigation constantly generated rumors about government and its personalities; (B) provide people with avenue recourse against arbitrary actions by some government officials, (C) assuage some of intellectual opposition to government.

5. Require all government officials to declare publicly their property and financial holdings and give National Assembly authority to make public investigation of these declarations in effort dispel rumors of corruption.

6. [Words illegible] of [word illegible] control over content of the Vietnamese publication [word illegible] magazines, radio, so that the [words illegible] to closing the gap between government and [words illegible] ideas from one to the other. To insure that the press would reflect, as well as lead, public opinion without becoming a means of upsetting the entire GVN [word illegible], it should be held responsible to a self-imposed code of ethics or "canon" of press-conduct.

7. [Words illegible] to propaganda campaign about new 3-year development plan in effort convince people that government genuinely aims at [word illegible] their welfare. (This suggestion [word illegible] of course upon assessment of soundness of development plan, which has just reached us.)

8. Adopt following measures for immediate enhancement of peasant support of government: (A) establish mechanism for increasing price peasant will receive for paddy crop beginning to come on market in December, either by direct subsidization or establishment of state purchasing mechanism; (B) institute modest payment for all corvee labor; (C) subsidize agroville families along same lines as land resettlement families until former on feet economically; (D) increase compensation paid to youth corps. If Diem asks how these measures are to be financed I shall suggest through increased taxes or increased deficit financing, and shall note that under certain circumstances reasonable deficit financing becomes a politically necessary measure for governments. I should add that using revenues for these fundamental and worthy purposes would be more effective than spending larger and larger sums on security forces, which, while they are essential and some additional funds for existing security forces may be required, are not complete answer to current problems.

9. Propose suggest to Diem that appropriate steps outlined above be announced dramatically in his annual state of union message to National Assembly in early October. Since Diem usually [word illegible] message in person this would have maximum effect, and I would recommend that it be broadcast live to country.

10. At [words illegible] on occasion fifth anniversary establishment Republic of Vietnam on October 26, it may become highly desirable for President Eisenhower to address a letter of continued support to Diem. Diem has undoubtedly noticed that Eisenhower letter recently delivered to Sihanouk. Not only for this reason, but also because it may become very important for us to give Diem continued reassurance of our support. Presidential letter which could be published here may prove to be very valuable.

Request any additional suggestions department may have and its approval for approach to Diem along lines paras 1 to 9.

We believe U.S. should at this time support Diem as best available Vietnamese leader, but should recognize that overriding U.S. objective is strongly anti-Communist Vietnamese government which can command loyal and enthusiastic support of widest possible segments of Vietnamese people, and is able to carryon effective fight against Communist guerrillas. If Diem's position in country continues deteriorate as result failure adopt proper political, psychological, economic and security measures, it may become necessary for U.S. government to begin consideration alternative courses of action and leaders in order achieve our objective..
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