125. Memorandum From the Naval Aide of the Presidentʼs Military Representative (Bagley) to the Presidentʼs Military Representative (Taylor)1
- SecDef Honolulu Conference on South Viet-Nam, 22 March 1962
The following items developed at the Honolulu conference are of special interest.
- President Diem has asked General Harkins to continue with the crop defoliation program and to provide helicopters to his province chiefs. In the first instance, General Harkins recommends using defoliants on a selected basis for crop denial. SecDef said he would try to obtain Washington concurrence in delegating some authority to Saigon for defoliation operations of this type. On the second matter, General Harkins suggested that H-19ʼs now being declared surplus by the Vietnamese could be turned over to the province chiefs. SecDef concurred.
- General Harkins said Diem has approved a border patrol. Discussion indicated this referred to 20 base camps along the Lao border and 68 along the Cambodian border, many of which are already established. They will be manned by 10 ARVN and 13 Montagnard ranger companies. (An earlier report indicated that 5,000 personnel would be assigned to this type of border patrol. There has been no mention of means of mobility nor of organization for command and control. This project should be investigated further to determine if it really supports the purpose of your recommendation and does not, in fact, tie down additional troops in static positions. I am checking it out through the TF.)
- There was discussion as to the advantages and disadvantages of arming helicopters. Admiral Felt was opposed; General Decker was in favor. Although the matter was brought up in only general terms SecDef suggested the disagreements indicated there was a problem. He asked General Decker to determine what was required and to make recommendations to him.
- Ambassador Nolting said that Nhu had directed that strategic hamlets, being built in all provinces now, are to be completed as soon as possible. The Ambassador commented that this objective may be optimistic in terms of the projected availability of troops to provide required protection.
- General Harkins stated that the training of civil guard and self-defense corps personnel not yet trained will be completed by the end of 1962. Efforts are continuing to increase the capacity of existing training sites.
- SecDef asked what percent of the SDC was armed. No one present knew. Ambassador Nolting commented that GVN reluctance to issue weapons to the SDC reflected some doubt as to the loyalty of those troops. SecDef said we cannot let 50,000 to 60,000 SDC remain unarmed or ineffective (with old French arms) and asked General Harkins to look into this matter. (This is related to carbine issue to SDC.)
Capability to resist subversion in Thailand was discussed. There was agreement that military capabilities are improving. The question of providing a Thai airborne unit was discussed at some length. There was some difference of opinion whether to convert existing non-airborne units or to form an entirely new unit. In view of the under strength status of the Thai Army, Admiral Felt recommended conversion although the Thais desire a new unit. Admiral Felt did not consider this an urgent problem but, based on a counter-argument by General Lemnitzer, agreed to review the entire problem including supporting airlift.
Admiral Felt reported that he had directed Chief JUSMAAG to move ahead on a Central Intelligence Organization for Thailand. He had just received a message from Ambassador Young indicating nonconcurrence on the basis that this was premature and not yet required in Thailand. Admiral Felt said that … is resisting the idea and is influencing the Ambassador.
- There was a broad discussion of both military and AID communications systems in Thailand. Proposed systems would connect Udorn and Okinawa by 31 March 62, and Ubon with Pleiku, Bangkok, and Saigon by 1 Sep 62. These systems would require about 450 additional US personnel to operate the several links envisaged. Ambassador Young has not agreed to these personnel increases; SecDef said he would authorize the introduction of a radio relay company (350 men) for a period of one year to fill personnel needs until the Thais develop a requisite capability. He asked Mr. Bundy to follow up with State to gain Ambassador Youngʼs concurrence.SecDef further requested a list of AID communication projects in Thailand so that he could consult with State and avoid long-term delays which have occurred in Viet-Nam. He indicated AID could subcontract to Defense in order to get the job done.
- SecDef asked General Anthis how important it is for US pilots to continue to fly Jungle Jim aircraft after Viet-Nam pilots have been trained. General Anthis said it was very important in order to continue learning about counter-insurgency operations and to monitor [Page 263]Vietnamese proficiency. SecDef pointed out the need to plan for the increased close air support capability which will exist in June as a result of present training and provision of additional aircraft; Ambassador Nolting cautioned that we should be sure of the political effect before stepping up air operations beyond the current level.
- General Harkins reported there is unanimous opinion that the five-man US advisory team for each ARVN battalion is too large. There should be one Captain and two Sergeants per battalion and four Lieutenants per regiment for observers. SecDef concurred.
- Ambassador Nolting indicated the AID program was being modified to emphasize short-range impact programs. He said the big problem was getting things done through the GVN.
- SecDef said this would be the last conference but that he expected to be in Saigon in May.