123. Briefing Paper for a Presentation by the Director of the Vietnam Task Force (Cottrell) Before the Special Group (Counterinsurgency)1



Civic Action in Viet-Nam is undertaken by the military, CIA, USOM and the GVN.


The Department of Army Civil Affairs Team surveyed the situation in 1961 and presented their report with recommendations on December 12. After review by MAAG it was submitted to Secretary Thuan in February 1962.2 He accepted the report but no formal approval by the GVN has been made. The principal recommendations of this report are:

The RVNAF should be inculcated with the belief that the war cannot be won in Viet-Nam if the villagers are antagonized by RVNAF hostile attitudes and treatment.
Villagers should be assisted on Civic Action projects by ARVN teams.
Civic Action teams should be trained to conduct resettlement of villagers into strategic villages.
Teams should be trained to assume civil government functions in areas recovered from the VC until turned back to civilian control.

Action Taken:

Psywar indoctrination of all RVNAF trainees has been introduced by MAAG to achieve objectives in No. 1 above.
Vietnamese leaders such as “Big Minh” have publicly stated and have issued orders to ARVN troops that their conduct vis-à-vis the villagers must be changed.
General Timmes reported in Honolulu on March 21 that a marked improvement has been noted in troop behavior towards the villagers since the initiation of this Psywar effort in the ARVN.
Five 20-man Civic Action teams are now in the field working on resettlement in connection with the construction of strategic hamlets and villages.
Five more teams are ready for assignment.
Five teams are now in training.
CINCPAC is providing guidance on a continuing basis to MAAG on the program described above.

The above Civic Action program is being applied in the Sunrise operation.

. . . . . . .


USOM Civic Action is geared primarily to rural rehabilitation and specifically pointed now at the strategic hamlet program in the Sunrise and Delta Plan concepts.3 The resources offered are to assist in Civic Action cadre training, making known USOM resources so that these may be drawn upon. These resources include the provision of village communication facilities, restoration of medical clinics, provision of medical stocks and staff, issuance of identification cards, vaccinations, conduct of malarial programs, basic sanitation, provision of elementary schools, teaching aids, teachers, pest control programs, agricultural credit, fertilizer supplies, seeds, advice on crop patterns, fish farming and irrigation assistance, farm extension programs, introduction of rammed earth brick equipment for housing, farm equipment, temporary housing, well digging, improvement of roads, electrical generation, village radio receivers, motion pictures, and printed materials.

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The Civic Action of the GVN is centered in the Ministry of Civic Action which was created in 1961. Since a number of other ministries of the government provide assets in Civic Action, a coordination of the effort was vested by Diem in an Interministerial Committee for Secure Hamlets on February 3. This Committee is charged with coordinating the Civic Action program throughout the country and has among its objectives the setting up of 8000 strategic hamlets in the next two years, strengthening them with socio-economic services and facilities.

President Diem has given the highest priority to the construction of these strategic hamlets which will constitute the hub of the GVN Civic Action effort. Minister Hieu now has over 600 cadre operating singly and in teams in every province of Viet-Nam.


MAAG and USOM have organized standing committees to work directly with the GVN in providing required U.S. military and economic resources to assist the GVN effort. It is expected that the present multiplicity of effort and programs will gradually be consolidated and coordinated. The encouraging element is that the GVN is moving forward with energy, having recognized the necessity for reaching the villagers with tangible government benefits.

  1. Source: Department of State, State-JCS Meetings: Lot 65 D 172, March 23, 1962. Secret. Drafted by Cottrell on March 22. The briefing memorandum was part of a package delivered to Under Secretary of State Johnson in preparation for a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on March 23 (see Document 126). A typewritten notation indicates that Cottrell presented the information orally to the Counterinsurgency Group meeting on March 22. The minutes of that meeting read in part:

    “Mr. Cottrell stated that, although he is encouraged by progress in the civic action programs, it is necessary to remember that we are engaged in an eight to ten year struggle. The MAAG is giving emphasis to the Strategic Hamlet concept in its civic action programs, as is USOM and the Government of South Vietnam. CIAʼs program is more in the field of security than civic action, with emphasis on paramilitary training for youths and villagers.” (Department of State, Special Group (C.I.): Lot 68 D 451, 1/1/62-7/31/62)

  2. Not found.
  3. See Documents 103 and 113.