16. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

1115. White House ranks defense Viet-Nam among highest priorities US foreign policy. Having approved Counterinsurgency Plan, President concerned whether Viet-Nam can resist Communist pressure during 18-24 month period before Plan takes full effect. Therefore White House has asked Department study what steps could be implemented as promptly as possible to further strengthen defenses Viet-Nam.

Unless Ambassador perceives objections following actions, largely taken from Counterinsurgency Plan, to be undertaken immediately without awaiting GVN approval Plan:

Actions primarily responsibility of DOD, CINCPAC and MAAG to be approved by Ambassador prior to implementation, provided CINCPAC perceives no objections.
Make IBM run to find military personnel best qualified give counterguerrilla training to VN armed forces. On priority basis send such personnel to MAAG/Saigon and cut short tours less qualified MAAG personnel now in Viet-Nam.
In order hasten training VN armed forces and use experience gained by British in Malaya, Department will discuss with British [Page 41] whether they willing send two or three British and/or Malayan officers to MAAG to discuss best means incorporating group British and Malayan personnel into well defined part ARVN or Civil Guard counterguerrilla training program. It is suggested that a place be found for British and Malayans in program.
Assign high priority to MAP program for Viet-Nam.
Without awaiting VN acceptance Counterinsurgency Plan devise and implement program for insuring adequate counterguerrilla training within 18 months of 65 ARVN Ranger Companies now in existence.
Give higher priority within Plan to activating 21 additional Ranger Companies.
Modify Plan to increase number of Ranger Companies by 40 and reduce proposed additional Infantry Regiments proportionately.
In conjunction with CAS increase emphasis on training individuals to penetrate VC.
Give high priority within Plan to Border Patrol (B-V), village transceivers (B-VI-5) and Civic Action (B-VII).2
Start immediately, with or without GVN participation as judged best by Ambassador preparation over-all Operations Plan for driving Viet Cong from Viet-Nam. Unless other methods can be proved better, this plan should be geographically phased. Plan should spell out minimum degree border control and cooperation with RKG which would be needed. It should include best means consolidating safe areas (taking into consideration Nhu’s views on “lines of strength”) as bases from which to move against nearby insecure areas. Plan for consolidation safe areas should set forth explicitly best means holding safe areas after ARVN moves on and best means retaining and increasing popular support in safe areas (latter to include types civic action to be undertaken by ARVN in newly won safe areas, whether feasible encourage GVN send promptly to such newly won areas competent VN administrators and health, education and agricultural technicians (preferably in that order), election youths to Village Councils and installation village radio receivers (B-VII-A-10,11).
Actions for approval and implementation by Ambassador.
Counterinsurgency Plan calls for several actions in economic field (Despatch 3173). These actions, rightly, are primarily aimed at retaining loyalty of peasants. In interests achieving continuing results as rapidly as possible, it suggested these actions be given priorities. Priorities suggested below are based on assumption that what VN peasants want can be listed in following order of importance: a) physical security (purpose entire plan); b) more money; c) land; d) health; e) education; f) better farming methods. On this assumption priorities for the peasant would be in this order: a) higher prices to peasants for rice (while realizing GVN has instituted such program, there are many middlemen between peasant and piaster and it recommended we lay heavy and continuing stress on importance [Page 42] GVN take all steps insure effectiveness this program). b) Increase availability credit to farmer (GVN has now with USOM assistance established successful National Agricultural Credit Organization (NACO), but its capital inadequate reach majority peasants.) Request USOM study how US can help NACO increase rate capital expansion more rapidly. c) Consider how and when GVN might be encouraged take next step rice land redistribution by lowering maximum holdings to 50 hectares. d) Re Administrators, assume we will continue our support National Institute Administration. Re employment administrators and health, education and agricultural technicians, see A, 9 above.
Ambassador may wish suggest appropriate member Country Team and staff study question treatment VC prisoners for purpose encouraging defections. Such study should consider a) methods employed by Magsaysay whereby GOP actively assisted peasants who had fought on side Huks, but were not Communists, to establish themselves as farmers in Mindanao (will pouch more on this); b) Burman method described by Colonel Maung Maung whereby prisoner told that since he a prisoner he must have failed. Prisoner asked analyze why had failed, what wrong with (Communist) system which permitted such failure. If possible prisoners persuaded write self-criticism. If suitable, such statement distribution to guerrillas as part psywar operations. Such study to include consideration of whether GVN should be encouraged publicly offer large rewards for capture VC leaders as done in Malaya.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/1-2561. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Wood on February 24; cleared with Anderson, Cleveland, Steeves, Rice, Admiral Heinz, SPA,S, S/S, and ICA; and approved by Parsons. Also sent to CINCPAC for PolAd and repeated to Paris for Nolting.
  2. These and similar letter-number combinations in this telegram refer to the annexes, appendices, and tabs of Document 1.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/1-2561)
  4. On March 8, Durbrow cabled his general agreement with the points made in this telegram. The 19-page reply concluded:

    “In summary, we have recognized since early stages formulation of C.I.P. necessity take immediate actions where possible without awaiting formal approvals. These actions have been subject repeated meetings with GVN military and civilian authorities including Thuan and Diem. As indicated above, MAAG particularly urged adoption of counterinsurgency measures to include development of an Operations Plan for phased reduction of insurgency and has even prepared proposed implementing directives for GVN. In spite of this repeated advice pressing for immediate counterinsurgency action, GVN has not decreed required measures and there are strong indications that they will continue to delay necessary actions unless highly pressured to act promptly and decisively, which we endeavoring do. However, since we can only advise, development and implementation of any plans rest solely with GVN. Until Diem agrees to mutually acceptable National Plan for Counterinsurgency, it is problematical whether RVNAF can develop, much less implement, meaningful Operations Plan for phased reduction of insurgency as described in pare A9 reftel, although Tactics and Techniques treaties already prepared by MAAG is sound basis for such a plan.

    “I shall continue vigorously push with Diem and Thuan for adoption comprehensive plan. Diem is procrastinating because main features of plan involve personnel and personalities, and these are hardest decisions for Diem to make because of his reluctance risk sharing power with anyone outside his family. If no appreciable success in obtaining Diem’s decision by time I go Bangkok I hope Secretary can give me personal instructions at Bangkok to lay before Diem in effort bring about decision. If that does not succeed, we may then be compelled to request strong personal message from President Kennedy to Diem.” (Telegram 1444; ibid., 751K.5-MSP/3-561)