117. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1191. Thuan informed DCM and me yesterday that President Diem had signed decree on “Delta Planning”.2 I gather that this is overall directive for clearance and rehabilitation of ten provinces around Saigon and that Diem may not yet have signed detailed directives for implementation various aspects. At any rate, it was clear that he has not signed specific order assigning responsibility for execution of plan. Thuan nevertheless seemed confident that this would be done shortly and that officer designated would be Lieutenant Colonel Hoang Van Lac.3

Lac is at present Chief of Kienh Province and is highly regarded by Thuan. Thuan assured us that when Lac is designated he will build on plans already developed by Gen Cao for operations in Bien Duong (Operation Sunrise) rather than starting afresh, and that Lac will maintain close liaison with mission as Cao has done to enable us to advise and assist promptly and effectively.

This could be important breakthrough on commencement systematic counterinsurgency operation. Diem had been holding back on signing of Delta Plan directive for about a month, and there was reason to fear that major snag had arisen, possibly in form of some basic disagreement between ministries about fundamentals of plan or who was to carry it out. In particular, there was considerable ground for doubts that Operation Sunrise under General Cao had full support of GVN military. Thuanʼs more or less jubilant report on signing of Delta Plan indicates that this problem, if it existed, is resolved. Thuan is not only Minister of Defense and therefore in a position to give plan necessary military support. He also indicated that he was quite conscious that more forces than presently allotted two battalions are required for Bien Duong operation. He said that he was urging on President desirability of taking regiment from 1st division in north for this operation and substituting for it as military presence on DMZ newly-created 9th division which would carry out its training there. (I have not yet had opportunity to discuss military implications of this with General Harkins.)

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At any rate, decision to move forward on Delta Plan is encouraging development. We should make and are making maximum effort to support it. It is plan with which Task Force Saigon is generally in accord and there will be ample opportunity to support modifications of detail, if required, as operations proceed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/3-2062. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad.
  2. Document 113.
  3. Diem signed the decree bestowing responsibility for the plan on Colonel Lac on March 23.