17. Letter From the Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam (McGarr) to the Director of Military Assistance, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Palmer)1

Dear General Palmer: I am convinced that implementation of State Limited Distribution Message 1115, March 1, 1961, would be counter productive in that it will confuse and will retard the offensive of the Government of Vietnam against the Viet Cong which is finally getting underway. For this reason, I am enclosing a copy of a letter which I wrote Admiral Heinz, Director, Far East Region, OASD, International Security Affairs, which bears directly on the problem.2

I sincerely hope Defense is not stampeded into going along with the referenced State message as, contrary to its contention, it is counter to the approved Counter-Insurgency Plan in significant respects. We already have the approved overall Operations Plan for driving the Viet Cong from Vietnam which the message directs and parts of it are already underway. What we need now is time to implement our present sound plans with GVN-not directives to make major changes. It must also be understood that neither MAAG or the Ambassador can direct the GVN to follow our recommendations-we can only work through persuasion and advice.

Under the provisions of the Military Assistance Program and the authority of the Ambassador stated as a qualification to United States approval given the Counter-Insurgency Plan for Vietnam, military aid and other support can be withheld or withdrawn from the Government of Vietnam for noncompliance with certain requirements. This kind of action could, of course, lead to a weakening of GVN military action, would allow further Viet Cong successes, be dangerous to our position in Southeast Asia and be at variance with President Kennedy’s announced intention to hold Vietnam. Therefore, our decision-making people will probably wish to reconsider [Page 44] the possible withholding of such aid as contrary to our President’s policy.


Lionel C. McGarr
Lieutenant General. USA
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files FRC 64 A 2382, Vietnam 1961, 370.5-384. secret. No drafting or clearance information is given on the source text.
  2. Not printed. In this six-page letter, dated February 27, McGarr elaborated on his reasons for opposing the Department of State position.