18. Letter From the Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam (McGarr) to Secretary of State for the Presidency Thuan1

Dear Mr. Secretary: Following the presentation of the Counter-Insurgency Plan by Ambassador Durbrow to President Diem on February 13th,2 I was encouraged by our apparent unity of interests and the likelihood that the plan in its entirety would prove substantially acceptable to your government.

My conversation with President Diem on Monday, March 6th,3 bore out my feeling that he was favorably inclined to adopting the plan substantially as presented. Staff discussions on the proposed implementation of the plan have cast some doubt as to the understanding by your government of certain important military provisions of the Counter-Insurgency Plan which presumably had been agreed upon. These together are of such magnitude that their rejection would in MAAG’s professional military opinion negate much of the plan’s required effectiveness. I am most anxious that none of the several actions contemplated by the plan, particularly those which would involve MAP support, be taken piece meal until agreement has been reached on the military portion of the Counter-Insurgency Plan as a whole.

I am sure you realize that effectiveness of the plan will depend to a large extent on the equipment and supplies for the forces including the 20,000 ARVN augmentation and the 32,000 Civil [Page 45] Guard. I am unable, as you were informed by the Ambassador, to order any MAP materials for these forces in spite of the long procurement lead time and consequent delayed arrivals involved, until formal agreement on the complete Counter-Insurgency Plan has been reached.

Among the major military provisions of the plan which I feel necessary and hope will be found acceptable to your government, are the following:

A military command structure providing an exclusively military chain of command (ie no civil agency included) from the Chief of the Joint General Staff RVNAF to the operational units in the field. Comment: The placing of substantial military forces under civil agencies not subordinate to military command control would operate to defeat this most contributive provision of the Counter-Insurgency Plan as this would give the military responsibility without commensurate authority.
A logistic system capable of unifying and coordinating the technical services at national level and carrying logistic control down through a logistic command structure at Corps level. Comment: You recently expressed to me your reluctance to adopt the central Logistic Command which under “Plan A” would balance the Field Command envisioned therein. I hope that General Sibley’s recent discussion of this with Lieutenant Colonel Liem of your office has dispelled your apprehensions as to both the feasibility and desirability of the central Logistic Command which I feel confident will best meet your understandable requirements for sound DOD organization.4
The elimination of duplicate technical services such. as presently exist in the case of the Chief of Engineer Services and the Engineer Field Command.
The composition of the force basis for the 20,000 RVNAF augmentation.
An improved and more cohesive intelligence and counter intelligence organization and operation.
Improved border and coastal patrol systems.
An improved and coherent national planning system for counter-insurgency and national security.
Certain military aspects of psychological warfare plans and operations.
The military aspects of an improved communications system.

I bring this to your attention because of the grave consequences involved in a failure to reach mutual understanding. These points have been discussed with Ambassador Durbrow since I feel success or failure in the fight against the Viet Cong rests on mutual understanding and agreement on the wise and early resolution of differences.

[Page 46]

To preclude the possibility that the military provisions of the plan proposed by my government and the professional reasoning which led to their inclusion in the plan are not fully understood, MAAG would welcome the opportunity for further discussion of these points with you or your staff.

I would also hope that before final actions are taken by your government on the important military provisions of the plan, we may be advised of the nature of these actions in order that any differences between your proposed actions and those included in the plan may be resolved. This would result in reaching mutually acceptable decisions which will enable the United States to provide the necessary added support for the Counter-Insurgency effort.


Lionel C. McGarr5
Lieutenant General, USA
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files FRC 66 A 878, Durbrow Demarches. Confidential. Attached to a memorandum from McGarr to Durbrow, March 13, which stated that the letter to Thuan had been less pointed than McGarr had wanted in order to protect his source of information.
  2. See Document 11.
  3. A memorandum of McGarr’s conversation with Diem on March 6 and the aide-memoire which he presented to the President were transmitted in despatch 422 from Saigon, March 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/3-2361)
  4. No record of this discussion between Brigadier General Alden K. Sibley, Deputy MAAG Chief, and Lieutenant Colonel Ky Quam Liem has been found.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.