235. Letter From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting)1

Dear Fritz: In line with the recent changes in organization here and our new look on Southeast Asia, Cot2 has set all hands to developing “action programs” for each country in the area. This gives us an opportunity to reorganize and pull together our own somewhat ad hoc action plans into one package. After doing a final report on Task Force Viet-Nam keyed to the Presidentʼs Program, the Joint Action Program (Staley Report), NSAM 104, NSAM 111, and your December 4 Memorandum of Agreement with Diem,3 we pulled out the actions which seem to us to be continuing and used them as the basis for our new draft action program.

This draft action program, which I enclose, will be subject to revisions and additions at the next Task Force Meeting July 11. However, since we are anxious to get your views at the Honolulu meeting I am sending our unrefined version to you now. Cot would like to have Task Force Saigonʼs revisions, additions, etc., when we get together at Honolulu.

The final report on Task Force Viet-Nam which I mentioned above is still in draft. I will forward a copy to you as soon as we get it into final form.

With best wishes, I am looking forward to seeing you at Honolulu,




Draft Action Plan Vietnam4

This plan is a reorganization and restatement of the continuing actions contained in the Presidential Program for Viet-Nam, the Joint Action Program (Staley Report), NSAM 104, NSAM 111, and the [Page 500] December 4 Diem-Nolting Memorandum of Understanding. Completed actions in those plans have not been included. New actions or modifications of old actions which flow naturally from previous plans and experience have also been included.


GVN Actions: This portion lists actions we should urge the GVN to take in accordance with the necessity of working through the administrative machinery of that government.
Increase governmental efficiency and put the GVN on a war footing. The GVN will take prompt legislative and administrative action to cut red tape and carry out counterinsurgency programs with maximum efficiency. This will include the vitalization of wartime agencies, adequate delegation of authority at all levels, and allocation of personnel resources in accord with the war emergency.
Strengthen popular support. The GVN will take appropriate measures to build popular support for the war effort, increase confidence in the government, and mobilize all of its manpower resources. These measures will include the following:
Appropriate training and indoctrination of provincial, district, village and hamlet officials.
Develop more contacts between GVN officials and the people’ including institutionalized means of communication up and down between the national government and the rural population.
Efforts to mobilize all non-Communist elements willing to contribute to the struggle. This might include exploring the possible use of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai religious sects m the war effort as well as permitting the greatest amount of non-Communist opposition activity consonant with national security. A particular effort should be directed at those intellectuals and professionals now on the sidelines.
Bring non-Communist prisoners to trial promptly.
The GVN will take all practical and feasible steps to develop its democratic institutions at all levels. This means developing a governmental system responsive to the needs and desires of the Vietnamese people and does not imply an obligation to adopt western political forms.
Amnesty policy for VC defectors. The GVN will develop and announce an amnesty policy for Viet Cong defectors. This will be a comprehensive plan to include rehabilitation, resettlement if necessary, and full psychological exploitation of defectors.
Seek international support and cooperation against the VC. The GVN will take appropriate diplomatic and domestic measures to gain maximum international support. These measures will include:
Improved relations with Cambodia. Undertake negotiations aimed at settlement of outstanding differences and the establishment of joint border controls. Negotiate and maintain a press truce.
In cooperation with the U.S., seek third country economic, and where appropriate, third country military aid. Take appropriate measures to coordinate and maximize the effect of this aid.
U.S. Actions
Make clear our confidence and support. The U.S. will continue to take periodic actions and make public statements to make clear its continued support of the Vietnamese people and their government. Our support and confidence must also be made evident to the Free World, and the Bloc for maximum effect.
Seek international support for Viet-Nam and our policy. The U.S. will take measures to gain international support for Viet-Nam and our Viet-Nam policy. The U.S. will actively seek third country economic and military aid as well as international political support for Viet-Nam. The U.S. will cooperate with the GVN in planning the most effective use of assistance offered by other governments. The U.S. will continue in its information programs to bring developments in Viet-Nam to the attention of the Free World.
Provide administrators and advisers. The U.S. will continue as opportunity offers to informally place U.S. adviser-operators with the Vietnamese governmental machinery. The U.S. will continue to develop and strengthen close working relationships with the GVN at all levels, placing particular emphasis on winning and maintaining *e confidence of both individual administrators and the GVN as a whole.
Cooperate with GVN in development of province CI requirements. The U.S. will continue to cooperate with the GVN in the collection of the detailed social, political, economic, intelligence and military information required to carry out province counterinsurgency programs.


Overhaul the military establishment and command structure. The GVN will reorganize its military establishment and command structure as necessary to prosecute the war more vigorously and to assure mobile offensive capability. This will include adequate delegation of authority to field commanders and clear and rational definition of the role of Province Chiefs.
Carry out a program of military civic action. The GVN, with U.S. provision of advisory personnel and equipment, will plan and carry out program of military civic action aimed at winning popular support and cooperation for the armed forces and the GVN. The plan will be coordinated with counterinsurgency programs and will include medical assistance for areas not serviced adequately by civilian medical facilities.
Seek effective border control. In addition to diplomatic measures aimed at closing Viet-Namʼs borders to VC infiltration, the GVN will continue to study and implement military measures designed to achieve effective border control. In cooperation with the U.S., modem military technology will be applied to the problem. The GVN will also make available a Ranger Border Force and work out with the U.S. plans for its use.
Develop and implement a mutually agreed geographically phased plan. The GVN will in cooperation with the U.S. develop and implement a mutually agreed upon geographically phased strategic plan for bringing Viet Cong subversion under control. Geographic and strategic priorities will be established in order to utilize U.S. assistance most effectively.
Reorganize and strengthen the military-political-intelligence system. In cooperation with U.S. advisory personnel and equipment the GVN will take appropriate measures to strengthen its military-political intelligence system, beginning at the province level and extending upward through the government and the armed forces to the Central Intelligence Organization.
Accelerate the training of Special Forces. The RVNAF, with U;S. assistance in training and equipment will continue accelerated training of Special Forces.
Provide increased training, logistical, technical and advisory assistance to the GVN forces. This will include:
Increased air lift for the GVN forces, including helicopters, light aviation, and transport aircraft, manned to the extent necessary by U.S. uniformed personnel and under U.S. operational control.
Provide such additional equipment and U.S. uniformed personnel as may be necessary for air reconnaissance, photography, instruction in and execution of air-ground support techniques, and for special intelligence.
Provide the GVN with small craft, including such United States uniformed advisers and operating personnel as may be necessary for operations in effecting surveillance and control over coastal waters and inland waterways.
The U.S. will assist in training and equipping the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps. Provide expedited training and equipping of the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps with the objectives of relieving the regular Army of static missions and freeing it for mobile offensive operations.
The U.S. will provide advisory personnel and equipment required for mutually agreed force levels. The ARVN strength target now is 225,000 men by the end of FY 64. Future increases in strength will be subject to review and agreement between the two governments.
Review advisability of further increases in the Civil Guard, Self Defense Corps and other local forces.
[Page 503]


The GVN should take appropriate economic and fiscal measures to mobilize the full resources of the nation in the struggle with the Viet Cong. These measures should include:
Generation of additional piaster resources adequate for the requirements of counterinsurgency operations. These additional piaster resources should be generated by tax reform, possibly exchange reform, possibly a savings and victory bond campaign, and by borrowing from the national bank.
Integrate economic measures and planning with counter-insurgency planning actions.
Study how further use can be made of US. surplus agricultural commodities (particularly wheat and corn).
Undertake long range economic planning. To the degree possible in the present emergency’ long range economic planning and long range economic programs should be continued. Planning machinery and personnel should be provided by the GVN for this purpose.
Provide additional resources to the GVN. Within the limits of available funds, the U.S. will provide the external resources required by the GVN, to include implementation of mutually agreed counterinsurgency and development plans. Commodity imports will be justified and absorbed under the seven criteria of the Staley Report.


Strengthen the information program. The GVN will accelerate its public information program to help develop a broad public understanding of the actions required to combat the Communist insurgents and to build public confidence in the GVNʼs determination and ability to deal with the Communist threat.
Publicize within Viet-Nam and internationally the facts of DRV aggression and the unfavorable conditions in North Viet-Nam. Documented facts concerning Communist infiltration and terrorist activities and the measures being taken by the GVN to counter such attacks will be compiled and publicized both domestically and internationally. The flow of information about unfavorable conditions in North Viet-Nam will be increased.
Exploit Viet Cong defectors. The GVN will exploit as part of a planned psychological campaign the rehabilitation of Viet Cong prisoners, stressing the errors of Communism, and broadcast this material to Communist-held areas, including North Viet-Nam, to induce defections.
Utilize USIA and diplomatic channels to focus world attention on DRV aggression and win international support for the GVN in its struggle against the Viet Cong.
Establish a network of sub-branch posts manned by one USIS local employee. These posts, which are primarily distribution points, are to be established in 12 to 18 major Provincial cities throughout the country. They will be housed in the VIS establishment in each city and function as a close support and advisory mechanism behind a VIS front.
Continue to press the GVN to establish adequate facilities for dealing with foreign correspondents. This would include a press lounge, a 24-hour duty officer in the Ministry of Information, and a senior official spokesman who is available at all times to answer questions on policy
Expand the already successful Kien Quoc, village newspaper designed in support of Operation Sunrise, into a network of village and provincial newspapers.

Arrange a sister-city relationship between Saigon and a major American city.

. . . . . . .

Presidential Action

The President shall be informed of matters arising in the implementation of this action program requiring his attention that they may receive his immediate consideration.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51K/7-662. Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. Sterling J. Cottrell.
  3. The Task Force Report is printed as Document 233. Regarding the Staley Report, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. I, Document 93. NSAM 111 is printed ibid., Document 272. The December 4 Memorandum of Understanding is printed as an enclosure to Noltingʼs letter of December 5, 1961, ibid., p. 713. Regarding NSAM 104, see footnote 10, Document 233.
  4. Secret. Drafted by Heavner and Cottrell on July 3.