155. Circular Telegram From the Department of State1

Circular 1730. 1. Department seriously concerned by impression created by some press reports that the war in Viet-Nam is a U.S. war, and which imply that it is war which U.S. is directing, in which U.S. is participating and for which U.S. is responsible. Critics of our present policy emphasize “growing U.S. involvement,” “U.S. moral responsibilities,” and similar concepts, as well as role of U.S. military personnel. This erroneous impression carries two dangers: a) adverse international reaction to assumed U.S. involvement and b) psychological support for Viet Cong who can gain popular backing from nationalists and anti-colonialists by pointing to conspicuous U.S. military role and portraying U.S. as assuming former French dominance.

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2. This impression is factually wrong and lacking perspective. Purpose this message therefore is to enjoin on all posts in discussing Viet-Nam war to avoid above terms but rather to make following points:

U.S. has given Viet-Nam military assistance since 1950 and at GVN request this assistance has been expanded in the past two years to help GVN defeat the Communist subversive aggression.
Assistance consists of materiel and equipment for Vietnamese security forces; advisers to these forces; and air transport capabilities, cargo planes and helicopters, to supplement presently inadequate Vietnamese capabilities.
U.S. military personnel are not participating directly in war nor are they directing war. Major U.S. effort is to train instructors rather than troops. However, given fluidity and ubiquity of guerrilla warfare, necessarily Americans suffer occasional casualties in carrying out their training and logistical functions—e.g., taking part in training patrol exercises.
In view of the seriousness of the Viet Cong aggression U.S. effort consequently substantial. Quite naturally American correspondents find U.S. effort most newsworthy subject for American public. This emphasis however tends distort facts: it is Vietnamese war. They are fighting it and retain full responsibility for it. U.S. role is limited to assisting them in maintaining independence.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/4-1162. Official Use Only. Sent to Embassies in 15 Asian countries and to Canberra, Wellington, Paris, London, and Ottawa. Drafted by Chapman; cleared with Cottrell, Manell, Usher, and Link; and approved by Rice.