156. Memorandum for the Record by the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric)1


  • South Vietnam


At this morning’s meeting with the President2 the following course of action was agreed upon with relation to South Vietnam:

The Defense Department is authorized to send the Air Force’s Jungle Jim Squadron into Viet-Nam to serve under the MAAG as a training mission and not for combat at the present time.
General Maxwell Taylor accompanied by Dr. Rostow from the White House, General Lansdale, a representative of JCS, Mr. Cottrell from State and probably someone from ISA will leave for Viet-Nam over the weekend on a Presidential mission (to be announced by the President at this afternoon’s press conference3 as an [Page 344] economic survey) to look into the feasibility from both political and military standpoints of the following:
the plan for military intervention discussed at this morning’s meeting on the basis of the Viet-Nam task force paper entitled “Concept for Intervention in Vietnam”;4
an alternative plan for stationing in Viet-Nam fewer U.S. armed forces than those called for under the plan referred to in (a) above and with a more limited objective than dealing with the Viet Cong: in other words, such a small force would probably go in at Tourane and possibly another southern port principally for the purpose of establishing a U.S. “presence” in Vietnam;
other alternatives in lieu of putting any U.S. combat forces in Vietnam, i.e., stepping up U.S. assistance and training of Viet-Nam units, furnishing of more U.S. equipment, particularly helicopters and other light aircraft, trucks and other ground transport, etc.
During the two or three weeks that will be required for the completion of General Taylor’s mission, State will push ahead with the following political actions:
protest to the ICC on the step-up in North Vietnamese support of Viet Cong activities,
tabling at the UN a white paper based on Mr. William Jorden’s report concerning Communist violations of the Geneva Accords, and
consultations with our SEATO allies, principally the British and the Australians, regarding SEATO actions in support of the deteriorating situation in Vietnam.

Roswell Gilpatric5
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 64 A 2382, Vietnam-2 Jan.-Oct. 1961. Top Secret. Drafted by Gilpatric. A note on the source text indicates that a copy was sent to Lansdale. Also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 322-323.
  2. Attending this meeting, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 12:25 p.m., were the President, Rusk, McNamara, Lemnitzer, Dulles, U. Alexis Johnson, Cottrell, Wilson, Bissell, Ball, Gilpatric, and McGeorge Bundy. (Kennedy Library, JFK Log, Book II) Only one other record of this meeting has been found. In telegram 1563 61 to McGarr, October 11, Lemnitzer reported that at a White House meeting that morning the President had decided to send to Viet-Nam a mission headed by General Taylor and including Rostow, Cottrell, Craig, Lansdale, a CINCPAC representative, and probably other representatives from ISA, CIA, and the Department of State. The mission planned to leave Washington on October 15 and to proceed to Saigon via Honolulu, spending about 2 weeks in Viet-Nam with subsequent visits to Bangkok and Vientiane if the situation permitted. According to Lemnitzer, the mission’s task was “to review situation and explore with country team, President Diem and CINCPAC, as well as on the ground, feasibility and desirability from a political and military standpoint of U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Mission will make recommendations for additional action short of intervention which might be taken in the present situation.” (National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, 1961 Eyes Only Messages)
  3. For the transcript of the President’s press conference held in the Department of State auditorium at 4:30 p.m., see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 656-664. The announcement of the Taylor-Rostow mission was made public in Saigon before Ambassador Nolting was notified, which he noted in telegram 478, October 12. In telegram 430 to Saigon, October 13, the Department expressed regret that the circumstances of the decision precluded advance notice to Nolting, but pointed out that the Charge at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington had been informed prior to the President’s announcement. Both telegrams are in Department of State, Central File 120.1551K/10-1261. In a note of October 12 to President Diem, Nolting offered his “personal apologies concerning the manner in which the announcement of the proposed visit of General Maxwell Taylor to Viet-Nam was handled.” Nolting explained that Washington authorities had undoubtedly “failed to take into account the time differential” in not giving him prior notification. (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 66 A 878, 350 Vietnam-Taylor)
  4. See Tab B, Document 155.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.