307. Letter From the Ambassador in Viet-Nam (Nolting) to President Diem1

Dear Mr. President: I am pleased to inform you that my government is prepared to proceed with the program we have discussed on the basis of the memorandum which Your Excellency approved on December 4. A copy of the memorandum is enclosed.

With regard to United States military personnel who arrive in the territory of the Republic of Viet-Nam pursuant to our understanding, I assume that they will, for the duration of their stay, be entitled to the same privileges and immunities accorded the members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group and that all equipment and material pertaining to the units in question will remain the property of the government of the United States. I would appreciate Your Excellency’s confirmation of my understanding on these points since it should form part of our respective records in this matter.

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Accept, Mr. President, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.2


Memorandum of Understanding3

The purpose of this memorandum is to record the essential points which have been agreed in recent discussions between the GVN and the U.S.

The basic immediate objective is to enable the GVN to take and maintain the offensive against the Viet Cong. The basic long-range objective is to enable South Viet-Nam to develop its freely-chosen institutions in peace and security.
To accomplish this, an increased Vietnamese effort will be mounted. The fundamental responsibility of the GVN for the conduct of the war will not be impaired. A closer and more effective relationship will be established, however, between the GVN and the U.S.A.
With the above objectives in mind, the U.S. has indicated its readiness to participate in a sharply increased joint effort with the GVN. This will involve increases in forms of aid previously furnished and, in addition, fundamentally new steps in GVN-U.S. collaboration, namely, (a) the participation of U.S. uniformed personnel in operational missions with GVN forces, and (b) closer consultation with U.S. advisers, as agreed, in planning the conduct of the security effort.
Before taking such far-reaching steps, the U.S. has sought, and the GVN has given, assurances that the GVN will take measures to increase its efficiency and to increase its public support in Viet-Nam and abroad.
With regard to increasing its efficiency, the GVN is prepared to do the following:
Reactivate and use fee National Infernal Security Council (NISC). This involves semi-weekly meetings, the creation of a secretariat to formulate decisions and directives, and the use of the NISC as the mechanism for the transmission of directives to subordinate commands for the prosecution of the war.
Military command structure. The GVN considers that a reorganization of the military command structure is necessary, and will consult with the U.S. on specific measures to this end.
Intelligence… .
Joint surveys of provinces. The GVN agrees to institute with the U.S. joint provincial surveys, it being understood that the surveys would be directed principally to military and intelligence matters. The surveys will be started immediately.
Border Ranger force. The GVN is prepared to release from other duties sufficient Ranger Companies to produce a border Ranger force of about 5,000 men; and to employ this force as a mobile striking force against infiltrators in the northwest.
Military coordination. The GVN agrees that there should be the closest coordination between GVN and U.S. commanders in operations involving U.S. military units. Specifically, it is understood that U.S. helicopter units and U.S. Air Force and U.S. Naval units would be under exclusive U.S. command and would be used only with the agreement of the U.S. commander. It is further understood that the GVN will not take decisions or actions involving joint operations without full prior consultation with the qualified U.S. agencies.
Administration. It is agreed that U.S. advisers will be accepted in certain GVN administrative organs in addition to the military, subject to the request of the GVN. It will be necessary to fulfill this understanding by mutual agreement and on a case by case basis, with due regard for the requirement for administrative support, the personality and discretion of the U.S. adviser, and his technical qualifications.
Legislative measures. Legislation has already been enacted giving the President of Viet-Nam broad emergency powers during the next two years. It is considered, therefore, that the President of Viet-Nam already has the constitutional authority to carry out the arrangements mentioned above.
With regard to winning public support at home and abroad, the GVN has already taken or has initiated a variety of actions, of which the following should be noted:
Creation of a national flood relief and rehabilitation organization.
Creation of provincial councils.
Institution of military training for women.
Investigation of speculators.
Proposals to reduce official salaries and entertainment.
Plans for improved military allowances and survivor benefits.
Creation of a National Economic Council.
The GVN will, in addition, take prompt measures of its own to:
give a broader sense of participation in the war effort to the people of South VietNam.
develop more contacts between officials of the GVN and the people.
develop a more effective public information service.
bring non-Communist prisoners promptly to public trial.
develop and announce an amnesty policy for Viet Cong defectors.
While continuing vigorously to develop the infrastructure of democracy in VietNam-in which the United States will do its utmost to help-the Government of Viet-Nam recognizes also the importance, in relation to its fight with international Communism, of developing at all levels its democratic institutions, and will take all practical and feasible steps to this end. While the determination of such steps rests of course with the GVN, the GVN will continue to consider suggestions of the U.S. Government in this regard in the spirit of the new partnership.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files FRC 66 A 878, POL US Foreign Policy. Secret. Drafted by Toussaint.
  2. The source text is unsigned.
  3. Secret.