245. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Lemnitzer)1


  • Command Structure for South Vietnam

In accordance with the discussion at the November 11 meeting with the President,2 I would appreciate the earliest possible recommendations, together with a draft order, from the Joint Chiefs concerning a command structure for South Viet-Nam under which a senior US military commander would assume responsibility for all activities, including intelligence operations, related to the counterinsurgency effort.3 It is understood that such a commander would report directly to the JCS and thence to me for all operational purposes.

The following points should be covered, without excluding others that may appear important to you:

The status of the command and its designation.
The relationship of the command to CINCPAC, and his functions with respect to it.
The relationship of the command to the US Ambassador in Saigon, and to the Chief of the USOM.

In addition to the above, please indicate what organization and key personnel you propose within the Joint Staff to monitor the operation on behalf of the Chiefs and myself. Your plans in this regard should envisage that reports to the President will be necessary on a twice-a-week basis until further notice.

For obvious reasons, I hope that the above can be carried out on the narrowest possible basis of participation. (I will handle the necessary discussions with the State Department after I receive your recommendations). Finally, I should like the personal recommendation [Page 590]of the Chiefs themselves for the senior officer to assume the command.

Robert S. McNamara4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files:FRC 71 A 3470, Southeast Asia 1961.
  2. See Document 236.
  3. Background information on this question is in an 8-page chronology entitled “Notes on Formation of MACV”, which traces the origin of a reorganized command to comments made by McNamara at an August 28 staff meeting that the command under CHMAAG should be used as “a laboratory to develop organization amp; procedures for the conduct of ’sub-limited war.’” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 75-062, Misc. Documents 1961)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.