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

21. Reference: Department telegram 1266.2 Joint Embassy-MACV message. On basis several extensive briefings (including one June 25 with President Diem) and our own staff evaluation of technical factors and GVN preparations, Ambassador and COMUSMACV satisfied (1) crop destruction program could produce substantial military advantage; (2) satisfactory destruction of crop targets could result, as evidenced [Page 505] by Delmore Report;3 and (3) no further technical experimentation necessary.

Further convinced that GVN methods of determining targets, based on best available ground and air intelligence, take into account all necessary factors. MACV staff is in position to render adequate technical advice.

Only factor not entirely determined is RVNAF capability launch and sustain on its own a crop destruction program on operational basis. RVNAF plans deploy helicopters for spraying, providing both air and ground cover during operations. Latter will involve considerable number troops in areas of substantial VC strength and control. Best way determine GVN capability is to concur with trial operation on limited basis, with dear understanding results thereof will be used decide whether further operations feasible.

Propose, therefore, work out with GVN trial operation Phu Yen Province. Target zone encompasses area BQ750650 to BQ955650 to BQ750490 to BQ955490. Would involve destruction of eight target plots within defined area, totaling 2500 acres of rice, corn, sweet potatoes and manioc. Determination this target based upon best intelligence available from both military and political channels and would be re-confirmed by joint US/GVN assessment prior to attack. Proposed anti-crop operation to be initiated and conducted solely by GVN with US participation being limited to sub-rosa technical advice and assistance.GVN will carry out using helicopters as primary means of dispensing chemicals, and employ ground and air cover as necessary.

Target in general area Hai Yen II and could contribute to overall success that operation. Incursion of GVN forces into VC controlled and occupied territory may result in bonus effect of engagement of sizable VC forces by VN troops. Equally important, considerable GVN civic action resources and US support already deployed this area, thereby providing better opportunity follow up quickly re social, economic, political aspects crop destruction operation.

Request Washington approve above program and authorize release sufficient chemicals to GVN to undertake this operation. Based on results operation, we would then consider jointly with GVN further target areas which they have already developed on priority basis within a suggested overall crop destruction program.4

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. Document 174.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Telegram 21 was subsequently sent to the U.S. Delegation at the Laos Conference as telegram 56. On July 9, Harriman reported that he “trusted” the request for crop destruction would be denied since the good name of the United States would be at stake. (Telegram 25 from Geneva; Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/7-962) On July 13, the Department of State informed both Geneva and Saigon that the proposal in telegram 21 would be held in abeyance pending Harrimanʼs return from Geneva. (Ibid.)