157. Draft Instructions From the President to His Military Representative (Taylor)1

I should like you to proceed shortly to Saigon for the purpose of appraising the situation in South Vietnam, particularly as it concerns the threat to the internal security and stability of that country. After conferring with the appropriate United States and South Viet-Nam authorities, I would like your views on the courses of action which our government should take at this juncture to avoid a further deterioration in South Vietnam.

As a part of your appraisal, I should like you to evaluate what could be accomplished by the introduction of SEATO or United States forces into South Vietnam, determining the role, composition and probable disposition of such forces. Concurrently, you should examine the possibilities of improving the effectiveness of South Vietnamese forces by additional equipment and training as well as by a further increase in the size of the armed forces of South Vietnam.

I would like to be assured that all of our United States aid, military and economic, is being applied to this main problem of the internal threat to South Vietnam. This aid, once approved, should flow into Viet-Nam with minimum procedural delays. Having noted the long and complicated chain of economic and military responsibility between Washington and Saigon, I have wondered whether greater simplicity and directness might not be possible. Please look into these questions and let me have your comments.

I suspect that there are many unconventional forms of assistance which we might bring to this situation if we apply all our initiative and ingenuity. Will you see that we are not overlooking any possibilities which fall outside of strictly orthodox measures?

This trip offers you the opportunity to observe at first hand the operations of the CIA in the areas which you visit. I am asking Mr. Dulles to have his field representatives put themselves at your disposition for such briefings and discussions as may be necessary.

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In Saigon, you will look to Ambassador Nolting to arrange your contacts with the South Viet-Nam government and to provide you guidance on the local situation. You will necessarily have to discuss with President Diem and his officials some of the courses of action which we have under consideration in order to elicit their views and to assure their cooperation if we take certain decisions. In these contacts, it is important to emphasize that your talks are exploratory and in no wise commit the United States Government to subsequent action.

Although you may need to visit other places in the area before returning, the Viet-Nam situation is urgent and requires priority of attention. I would like you to cable me your impressions and recommendations as soon as they are firm.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-142-69. A handwritten notation on the source text reads, “Draft prepared by Gen. Taylor. Final version dated 13 Oct.” In a memorandum of October 12 to U. Alexis Johnson, William Bundy wrote that Gilpatric and Lemnitzer were prepared to concur in the draft instructions subject to certain changes and additions which he listed. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/10-1261) Johnson transmitted a revised draft to McGeorge Bundy under cover of a memorandum of October 12, in which he said that it had been cleared with William Bundy, Gilpatric, and Lemnitzer. (Ibid.) The instructions as given by the President to Taylor on October 13, which were substantially different from either of the earlier drafts, are printed in Taylor, Swords and Plowshares, pp. 225-226.