169. Editorial Note

The Taylor Mission departed Washington on the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 1961. In addition to Taylor and Rostow, the mission included Sterling Cottrell; Rear Admiral Luther C. Heinz; Brigadier General William H. Craig; Brigadier General Edward G. Lansdale; Colonel Robert M. Levy, USAF (J-3, JCS); Colonel Albert W. Campbell, USMC (J-4); Dr. George W. Rathjens (ARPA); William Jorden, Policy Planning Council, Department of State; James W. Howe, International Cooperation Agency; David R. Smith, Central Intelligence Agency; Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Steinhauser, USA (J-2); Lieutenant Commander Worth H. Bagley, USN, Naval Aide to General Taylor; and Major James W. Dingman, USA, Army Aide to General Taylor. Andrew Hatcher, associate press secretary to President Kennedy, was included in the mission, but did not make the trip. A representative of the CINCPAC staff was to join the party at Honolulu and William H. Godel was to join the party at Saigon. Taylor, who planned to wear civilian clothes, asked that there be no military honors, social functions, press briefings, or interviews. (Telegram 429 to the Embassy in Vietnam, October 12; Department of State, Central Files, 120.155K/10-1261)

The mission arrived at CINCPAC headquarters in Honolulu on the evening of October 15. Taylor recalls that the following morning the mission received an exhaustive briefing on the situation in Southeast Asia from Admiral Harry D. Felt, Commander in Chief, Pacific. Admiral Felt was convinced the situation in Viet-Nam was critical and needed prompt United States assistance. At the same time, he also stressed the importance of getting Diem to keep his provincial governors from intervening in military matters and to overcome a propensity of his commanders to sit on static defensive positions. Regarding the need for United States forces in South Vietnam, Felt was inclined to favor the introduction of logistic units, including engineer and helicopter units for selective assistance to the Vietnamese, but to withhold combat forces for the time being. In the long run, he saw no answer to the problem of halting infiltration short of placing sizable ground forces, preferably SEATO troops, in Laos across the Ho Chi Minh trails. See Taylor, Swords and Plowshares, pages 227-228, and Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, volume II, pages 83-84. Felt’s report on the October 16 briefing of the Taylor Mission was sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in telegram 180250Z, October 18. (Office of Naval History, CINCPAC Message Files)

The mission left Honolulu the evening of October 16 and arrived in Saigon during the morning of October 18.