11. Paper Prepared by the Task Force in Vietnam1


Table of Contents

Over-all Concept of Operations
Operations Control and Coordination
Military Counterinsurgency Operations
Political, Economic, and Psychological Counterinsurgency Operations
Time Phasing of Counterinsurgency Operations
Geographical Phasing of Counterinsurgency Operations


Operations of Control and Coordination
Political, Economic, and Psychological Counterinsurgency Operations
Concept of Operations for Restoring Security in Red and Pink Areas
Concept of Operations for Maintaining Security in White Areas
Geographical Priorities for Restoring Security in Red and Pink Areas
[Page 18]

1. Overall Concept of Operations

The concept of counterinsurgency operations envisions combined use of political, economic, psychological, military and paramilitary efforts to maintain security and government control and support where they still largely exist (white areas) and to restore them in areas where they have broken down to a greater or lesser extent (red and pink areas).

For purposes of definition a red area is considered one where the VC operate with virtual impunity, enjoy the support, voluntary or not, of the populace, and are susceptible of expulsion only through a major military effort. A pink area is one in which the VC and the GVN are competing for dominance and in which, for example, the VC may control by night and the GVN by day. In white areas the GVN by and large exercises normal control and VC activities are mostly harassments rather than more significant actions.

It is clear that in each and every province the gamut of security runs from white (at least in the area of the provincial capital) through pink to red. It is also clear that the type of counterinsurgency operations conducted will differ substantially, depending upon the degree of security in a given area.

The main considerations which should govern the priority of counterinsurgency operations are the following:

Every effort should be made to keep existing white areas white through appropriate political, economic, psychological and paramilitary measures. Military forces should not be diverted for use in white areas, but effective paramilitary forces are essential for maintaining security in those areas.
Simultaneously, to extend security control from white to pink and red areas in application of the amoeba principle, combined political, economic, psychological, military and paramilitary efforts should be mounted on a carefully coordinated, phased basis in successive selected geographical areas. Flexibility is necessary in the choice of these areas.
At the same time constant pressure should be maintained (essentially by military means) on the Viet Cong in other pink and red areas in order to keep them off balance, and psychological/civic action efforts should be carried out to convince the populace in these other areas that the Government is still aware of their existence. Gradually these areas would become the targets for major coordinated, phased actions of the type outlined in 2, above.

2. Operational Control and Coordination

Planning, control and coordination of all counterinsurgency operations (whether in white, pink or red areas) are a key to success. Policy should be made by the national-level Internal Security Council under the direction of the President. Execution of this policy through planning, controlling and coordinating the combined political, economic, [Page 19] psychological, military and paramilitary operations should be performed by a Central Director of Plans and Operations under the Internal Security Council. The Secretary of State for the Presidency could serve as this official provided he is relieved of other functions.

Security committees should be established at the regional, provincial and district levels, to insure thorough coordination at all stages of operations. These committees will consist of the appropriate officials at each level responsible for military and civil affairs.

3. Military Counterinsurgency Operations (see MAAG paper on “The Tactics and Techniques of Counter-Insurgency Operations”2 for description of military counterinsurgency operations).

4. Political, Economic and Psychological Counterinsurgency Operations

Political, socio-economic and psychological counterinsurgency measures at the local and village level will vary in nature depending upon the degree of security in a given area. These measures are spelled out in Annex B, and are summarized below.

In the political field they include steps to improve the compensation, selection and training of village and hamlet officials; a continued training program for district officials; and the establishment of advisory councils of notables at the village level. These steps appear practical only in white and pink areas, and can be extended to red areas only as they are made whiter.

In the socio-economic field expansion and acceleration of regular village-level programs in areas now white or light pink or which become so as a result of military operations should be conducted in order to demonstrate to the people that the Government offers them real hope for improvement of their living standards. This program should be designed to give each and every village a basic minimum of government-established facilities. The aim should be to do this within a matter of weeks, not years. This program should be executed through the regular economic and social ministries of the GVN down through the provinces and districts. At the top a Cabinet subcommittee would provide for coordination, and at the bottom civilian civic action teams would assist village officials.

In addition, certain special programs would be useful in areas where regular programs cannot operate. These special programs include the rural reconstruction teams now operating under the control of the Ministry of Civic Action, special military task forces consisting [Page 20] of military civic action and psychological warfare teams and protecting troops, similar “hit-and-run” civic action operations by the Ministry of Civic Action, and a special impact flying-doctor program.

In the information field the military psychological warfare forces should be responsible in red and dark pink areas because of the protection required by operating units. This would parallel military responsibility for civic action in the same areas. On the other hand, information activities in existing white or light pink areas and in areas where security has been restored should be handled by the civilian agencies of the GVN. Civilian information specialists should operate in conjunction with civic action specialists working on the breakthrough program at the village level since the most credible information will be that based on actual accomplishment.

5. Time Phasing of Counterinsurgency Operations

Major phased, coordinated actions aimed at restoration of security in red and pink areas will center around military operations, but will also require plans and operations in the political, psychological, economic and paramilitary fields (see Annex C for detailed outline). Those actions against any given red and/or pink target area can be visualized in three successive phases: preparatory, military, and follow-up. Careful coordination of all aspects of the action—political, socio-economic, psychological, military and paramilitary—is required at each phase to insure that military effort will not be wasted.

Maintenance of security in white areas will also require coordinated action (see Annex D for detailed outline). In these areas the focus should be on providing village and hamlet protection through paramilitary action and helping the villagers to improve their standard of living through socio-economic action. Political and information action should be closely related to these two programs. All of these activities should be executed forthwith and simultaneously if white areas are to be kept white.

6. Geographical Phasing of Counterinsurgency Operations

It is essential to preserve as white areas those areas which are still relatively white, and simultaneous action should be taken in all such areas. This should include, as a minimum, all areas adjacent to provincial capitals, most district seats, and the lowlands area of Central Viet-Nam.

Concomitantly major actions aimed at the restoration of security in red and pink areas through the application of the amoeba concept should be initiated on a selected, successive basis (see Annex E). First priority for such action should be given to those areas which are essential to the continued existence of the Government of Viet-Nam. [Page 21] To preserve the national entity it may be necessary to give priority to areas which by themselves do not contribute materially to the over-all strength of Viet-Nam, but which are controlled by the VC as potential areas from which to attack. In determining geographical priorities for preserving the base of government and eliminating the treat to security through application of the amoeba concept, several factors will need to be considered (population density, economic importance, area strength of the Viet Cong, suitability to isolation from Viet Cong, etc.). It is believed that on balance first priority should be given to the provinces which surround Saigon to assure a secure primary base for further GVN operations. The second priority should be given to the remaining Southern provinces because of their population, their importance as the rice basket of Viet-Nam and the greater difficulty confronting the VC in that area in reinforcing their strength through large scale infiltration from North Viet-Nam. The red and pink areas in the coastal low lands north of Saigon to the 17th parallel should also be given simultaneous second priority since this area includes a large segment of the population and controls the major route of land communication to the North.

This does not mean that other areas are to be neglected. Simultaneous action will continue toward the establishment of a border force aimed at reducing infiltration. Concurrently, major military actions will be taken in other areas against Viet Cong targets of opportunity as they arise, since it is necessary to keep the Viet Cong from consolidating their hold in any area. However, phased across-the-board military, political, socio-economic, and psychological action would be concentrated in the first instance on the area surrounding Saigon.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 65 F 115, Counterinsurgency Plan. Secret. The annexes are not printed. Transmitted under a January 18 memorandum from Mendenhall to Nolting, which indicated that all agencies represented on the Task Force in Vietnam had approved the plan and that the Task Force now awaited permission from Nolting to present the plan to the Government of Vietnam. Also attached was a second memorandum of January 18 from Mendenhall to the Task Force noting two changes recommended by MAAG and USIS, which are incorporated in the source text; another memorandum of January 10 from Mendenhall to the Task Force transmitting copies of an earlier draft; a handwritten note from Mendenhall to Nolting of December 15 specifying various changes from earlier drafts; and a covering memorandum from Mendenhall to the Task Force transmitting the first draft on December 1.

    The plan was transmitted to the Department of State as an attachment to despatch 429, April 16. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/4-662) The despatch, signed by Mendenhall, reported that the plan was designed to implement the “Counterinsurgency Plan” developed and approved for all of South Vietnam in 1961 (Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. I, Document 1), but that it was not submitted to the Government of Vietnam because in the interim the British Advisory Mission had submitted the Delta Pacification Plan (Document 51) for approval. The despatch reported that the two plans were compatible, but that the Embassy saw merit in avoiding swamping the Government of Vietnam with too much paper at once. Finally, it stated that the U.S. Interagency Committee on Province Rehabilitation, established in late March 1962, was using the Plan as its basic guide.

  2. A manual written by General McGarr and distributed to all field advisers, first published in November 1960. Reference here is presumably to the third revision, dated October 1, 1961. The fourth revision, February 10, 1962, is in Washington National Records Center. RG 84. Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 66 A 870, Internal Security, 1961.