237. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defenseʼs Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)1
- The “X-Factor,” Vietnam
Here is a way of getting a sharper picture of how we’re doing in Vietnam. The “way” uses the largest U.S. resources in Vietnam. Defense resources under your control.
Attached are a list of questions. Most of them concern the “x-factors” of the real war in Vietnam. Some are vital to true measurements, others are significant as collateral. They are in addition to basic needs on enemy order-of-battle, casualties, lost weapons, etc.
Inexpert use of these questions in Vietnam can be harmful to our cause. If they become widely known among Vietnamese, as being of real official concern to the U.S. military, the Vietnamese could take this as a U.S. loss of faith in the Vietnamese armed forces, government, or people; they could open a bad, political Pandoraʼs box among Vietnamese or in our relations with them.
Thus, it is recommended that the questions be used in the following way:
- The use of the questions should be a staff function of MAC-V; General Harkins could have a small team (2 or 3 U.S. military) to handle this; they should be good listeners, good writers, who know Vietnam.
- The questions should be asked only of Americans who have been out in the field, who have had first-hand experience, and who are judged to have gotten close to the Vietnamese; out of thousands of Americans, 50 or 100 might be selected; this should be repeated periodically.
- The questions should be asked at a time and place where these “field Americans” can reflect upon them amply; if our best Americans in the field are given brief R&R leaves in Saigon, Dalat, Hongkong, Clark, or Baguio, it would be wise to add extra time and then question them there.
- The questioners should do the work, not those questioned; verbal give and take can get better results than making field men write down what they know.
- Since conditions vary from locality to locality, it is important to get a geographic fix on each locality reported upon; results could be translated on charts or maps, after analysis; every significant locality should be reported on.
In Vietnam, we are up against an enemy who uses Mao Tse-tungʼs tactics. The text-book rule of imposing our will on enemy forces needs further interpretation. The real contest is to win over the people on the land, which includes protecting them. My questions are to this point.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: Lot 66 A 3542 Vietnam 1962, 000.1-091. Also sent to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Signed “Ed”. On the source text McNamara wrote: “7/15 To Gen Lansdale. An excellent set of questions Ed—it is this kind of info I need & am not receiving—please discuss with Joe Carroll.” At the bottom of the source text Lansdale noted: “Discussed with Gen. Carroll. He said he would include this in further steps he is taking. He notes that some adding of intelligence & operations is needed.”↩