82. Letter From the Acting Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric) to the Secretary of State1

Dear Dean:

The Department of Defense, as directed by National Security Memorandum No. 52,2 has made an assessment of the military utility of a further increase in South Vietnamese armed forces from 170,000 to 200,000. It is our view that with the present deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia it is in the best interests of the United States to support in principle this increase in the force structure for Viet-Nam to provide for two divisions or their equivalent (including necessary Naval and Air Force augmentation). With the critical increase of Communist insurgency in South Vietnam, the present military posture of North Vietnam, and the Communist potential resulting from the expansion of Communist controlled [Page 198] areas in Laos, a 30,000-man increase in South Vietnamese forces is justified.

Such an increase, which would require additional MAP and Defense Support type funding, would permit activation of the two additional infantry divisions requested by President Diem in his letter of 9 June 1961 to President Kennedy.3 Since President Diem envisages an eventual increase of the force level to 270,000, it should be made clear that U.S. approval of the 30,000-man increment would not imply U.S. acceptance of the 270,000 force level.

This increase of 30,000 should not be initiated until the currently authorized increase of 20,000 is properly amalgamated into the GVN force structure. It is our view that the additional increase should proceed only as rapidly as the GVN is capable to receive, support, administer, train, and maintain forces in being as well as to provide for the increase.


Ros Gilpatric
  1. Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316,NSAMs. Top Secret.
  2. Document 52.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 69.