59. Paper Prepared by the Vice President1
Attached to the source text and the copy in OSD Files is a three-page paper on Thailand.
[Here follow sections A-C, the Laotian crisis and Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.]
D. Viet Nam
Among the countries which I visited, the threat to peace and progress is most direct and immediate in Viet Nam. That country has come a long way since the days when the Indo-China war was brought to a halt by the first Geneva Conference of 1954. Relative initial peace and a major land reform and other programs of self help have restored agricultural production and lifted it to new highs. Internal communications as well as the transportation system have been expanded. Industrial development has begun in earnest. Responsible political institutions have begun to function, as attested to by the recent election. Social progress in education and health and other fields has been significant.[Page 150]
This great constructive work was made possible by the personal dedication of President Ngo Dinh Diem, the efforts of the Vietnamese people themselves and by the infusion of large amounts of United States aid. While this aid has gone largely for the support of a large military establishment, it has enabled the Vietnamese to join their own resources with our economic aid for many constructive undertakings.
Unfortunately, the continuance of this constructive work is now threatened by a resurgence of Viet Minh terrorism in South Viet Nam. The number of these trained and organized disrupters has risen in recent months from three thousand to an estimated twelve thousand. Though relatively few in number, their capacity for disruption is very great. This is the nature of this type of activity as indicated by experience in Malaya, Burma and elsewhere. It may be that those with experience elsewhere with this problem could be most helpful in Viet Nam.
The basic problem in Viet Nam is not very different than it is for all of the nations of the region. The ordinary people need decent houses. They need schools. They need better conditions of health. They need the productive industries, the thriving agriculture and the safe and adequate transportation and communications which will make all of these things possible. They need an understanding government which is close to them and in which they feel a stake.
The will to achieve these improvements is present in Viet Nam. The determination and the energy to obtain them is present. Yet, the effort to achieve them is frustrated and disrupted by the agents of terrorism as well as by the ever-present shadow of the massive communist armed forces in North Viet Nam.
In short, that degree of material security which acts to release the full and constructive energies of peoples is not present in Viet Nam. Unless it is forthcoming in the near future, the great efforts and sacrifices, the vast amounts of aid which have poured into this country in the interests of peace and security may go down the drain.
I am assured by responsible officials-military and civilian-of this government and the government of Viet Nam, that Viet Nam can be made secure against the depredations of the organized terrorists who roam the countryside. I am assured, further, by these officials that the country can be made reasonably secure against invasion by the Viet Minh from the north.
An increase in military aid will be necessary for this purpose. New methods and new tactics for dealing with the problem of terrorism will be required. This will not be a short-term proposition. It will not be cheap. Yet, if this effort will in fact produce the security necessary for progress in freedom in Viet Nam, as those [Page 151] who are expert in these matters say that it will, then it is in our interests as well as the interests of the Vietnamese people and all free nations that the effort be made. The price of the failure to make the sacrifices now in Viet Nam will be paid for later in the increased jeopardy to the United States and other free nations. The failure to act vigorously to stop the killing now in Viet Nam may well be paid for later with the lives of Americans all over Asia.
Let me stress, however, that a mere increase in the level of military aid on our part to Viet Nam will not necessarily solve the difficulty. There must be new methods for the use of all such aid. It must be provided under clear-cut plans mutually agreed upon. These plans must be pursued with great vigor on the part of the Vietnamese and with the cooperation of other free nations as well as our own if this job is to be done.
Most important, there must be a simultaneous, vigorous and integrated attack on the economic, social and other ills of the Vietnamese peoples. The leadership and initiative in this attack must rest with the Vietnamese leaders. But our aid program must be closely integrated with practical plans of the Vietnamese. The agents of the aid program must work closely with the Vietnamese and their constructive effect will be clearly felt by the Vietnamese people as a whole. It would be most helpful in this connection if the Joint Economic Commission referred to in the communique which was issued in Saigon at the conclusion of my visit could be named and begin to function without delay.
There is a serious and immediate challenge to peace and freedom in Vietnam. It can be met if Viet-Nam and this country and other free countries will face it and act vigorously to meet it.
[Here follow sections E and F, Thailand and concluding observations.]
Source: Department of State, Viet-Nam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, 22.1 Vice President’s Trip, GVN 1961. Secret. The source text was an attachment to Johnson’s memorandum to the President, May 23, reporting on his mission to Asia. The text is printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 159-166.
It is not clear whether this paper was intended to be an annex to the memorandum to the President, a draft of the memorandum itself, or the report from which the Vice President briefed the Cabinet on May 25. The copy of the memorandum to the President in OSD Files also has this attachment, but copies in the Johnson Library and the Policy Planning Files do not. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330; FRC 65 A 3078; Johnson Library, VP Security Files, VP Visit to SE Asia; and Department of State,S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, Asia 1961)↩