27. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to the President1

Now that the VietNam election is over,2 I believe we must turn to gearing up the whole VietNam operation. Among the possible lines of action that might be considered at an early high level meeting are the following:

The appointment of a full time first-rate back-stop man in Washington. McNamara, as well as your staff, believes this to be essential.
The briefing of our new Ambassador, Fritz Nolting, including sufficient talk with yourself so that he fully understands the priority you attach to the VietNam problem.
A possible visit to VietNam in the near future by the Vice President.
A possible visit to the United States of Mr. Thuan, acting Defense Minister, and one of the few men around Diem with operational capacity and vigor.
The sending to VietNam of a research and development and military hardware team which would explore with General McGarr which of the various techniques and gadgets now available or being explored might be relevant and useful in the VietNam operation.
The raising of the MAAG ceiling, which involves some diplomacy, unless we can find an alternative way of introducing into the VietNam operation a substantial number of Special Forces types.
The question of replacing the present ICA Chief in VietNam, who, by all accounts, has expended his capital. We need a vigorous man who can work well with the military, since some of the rural development problems relate closely to guerrilla operations.
Settling the question of the extra funds for Diem.
The tactics of persuading Diem to move more rapidly to broaden the base of his government, as well as to decrease its centralization and improve its efficiency.

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Against the background of decisions we should urgently take on these matters, you may wish to prepare a letter to Diem which would not only congratulate him, reaffirm our support, and specify new initiatives we are prepared to take, but would make clear to him the urgency you attach to a more effective political and morale setting for his military operation, now that the elections are successfully behind him.

  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, 20 US Govt, GVN 1961. Secret. Printed also in Declassified Documents, 1975, p. 329B. Attached to the source text was a note initialed by Anderson which reads: “Mr. Nolting, this is further evidence of high-level interest in your country.” The note was also initialed by Nolting.
  2. In the presidential elections held April 9 Diem gained nearly 90 percent of the vote against two other opponents and was elected for the term 1961-1966. Documentation on the election is in Department of State, Central File 751K.00.