248. Record of the Sixth Secretary of Defense Conference, Camp Smith, Hawaii, July 23, 19621

VIETNAM

Item #1—Review of GVN and RVNAF actions and progress since 1 May to include estimate of situation now and forecast for next six months.

Summary of Discussion

1. Gen Harkins opened the discussion by summarizing progress to date. He indicated there is no doubt that we are on the winning side. If our programs continue, we can expect VC actions to decline. The following subjects were summarized:

a.

Strategic Hamlet Program

With regard to the Strategic Hamlet program, 2400 have been constructed and a total of 6000 should be completed by the end of the year. Some of the hamlets are not particularly good. There has been no national plan for their establishment. However, Pres Diem has recently formed a committee to coordinate the program and ARVN division commanders will now be included in implementing actions. COMUSMACV has initiated a program to insure that equipment is phased into the Hamlet project in an orderly manner.

It was pointed out that in certain areas the reception of the Hamlet program has been very good. Approximately 115,000 Montagnard tribesmen have come out of the hills, asking for help by the government. Pres Diem has visited some of the tribes and has spoken to the people about the Hamlet program.

b.

Communications

Thus far, 14 provinces have been equipped. The Backbone system will be completed by 1 September 1962. Reaction time has been improved considerably.

c.

Training

Intelligence is improving and training programs are generally ahead of schedule, including programs for the Army, the Civil Guard and the Self Defense Corps. In this connection, it is planned that a retraining program for the Self Defense Corps will be initiated next year.

d.

Operations

Contact is being made with the VC every day. During April 434 ground operations were mounted. This was increased to 441 in May. Over 1000 air sorties were flown in June. The GVN still needs to work on their organization but progress is being made. Pres Diem has indicated that he plans that his troops will get out in the field more often and stay out longer.

e.

River Boat Program

With regard to the boat program for inland waterways, Gen Harkins stated that the program is going well and that additional boats are not needed at present.

f.

Armed Helicopters

Gen Harkins stated that some helicopters should be armed for suppressive fire. Adm Felt outlined a request he had made to the JCS for new USA flexible gun kits, the XM 153. He recommended the kits and tech reps to assist in installation be sent to SVN. Sec McNamara directed VAdm Riley, Director of the Joint Staff, to start a project on this item so that a report could be made next week. SecDef asked if helicopters were equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks and/or armor. He was given a negative reply. SecDef then indicated he would speak with Army personnel further on the question during a forthcoming visit to Fort Bragg.

g.

Defoliant Operations/Crop Destruction

Gen Harkins next outlined requests that have been made for further defoliation operations. The single approved operation at Bien Hoa started the week of 15 July and is in progress. A requirement exists for crop spraying in areas vacated by the Montagnards when they move to the Strategic Hamlets. The VC will use these crops unless they are destroyed. Amb Nolting pointed out that real progress [Page 548]is being made with movement of the Montagnards and that greater results could be expected if crop destruction is undertaken. A critical point on the side of the VC is how to keep the infiltrators fed. Adm Felt pointed out that two recommendations were pending in JCS with respect to defoliant operations (Delta area) and crop destruction. He stated he has not forwarded a COMUSMACV recommendation on defoliating communication routes and an elephant grass area in Northern SVN. With regard to crop destruction, SecDef inquired if the GVN could procure required chemicals on the world market, outside of the US. Mr Bundy stated that they could probably purchase chemicals from Dow Chemical Corp. SecDef asked Amb Nolting if he felt that crop destruction would create adverse propaganda in SVN. Amb Nolting replied that destruction of vacated Montagnard crops should not create a problem and that the GVN have used napalm to burn these crops. Food is a limiting factor in the VC campaign. The harvesting season is approaching and we will need to act fast if we are going to get results. Sec McNamara next pointed out the political problem involved. The US has just agreed to a settlement in Laos. This is a critical time with regard to international relations. It will be necessary to discuss this further in Washington.

[Here follow sections h. Jet Aircraft, i. Armored Personnel Carriers, and decisions made and actions to be taken.]

Item #2—Training and Equipment Status of RVNAF, CG and SDC.

Summary of Discussion.

1.
Gen Harkins summarized progress of RVNAF, CG and SDC. The programs are coming along well and in most cases are ahead of schedule. Equipment is being provided as fast as the troops are capable of absorbing it. The limiting factor is the shortage of ARVN officers and NCOʼs which should improve within the next 6 months. The VNN and VNMC are in good shape and there is no shortage of equipment.
2.
SecDef noted that 6 months ago we had practically nothing and we have made tremendous progress to date. However, we have been concentrating on short term crash-type actions and now we must look ahead to a carefully conceived long-range program for training and equipping RVNAF and phase out of major US combat, advisory and logistics support activities. He asked how long a period before the VC could be eliminated as a disturbing force. Gen Harkins estimated about one year from the time that we are able to get RVNAF, CG and SDC fully operational and really pressing the VC in all areas.
3.
SecDef directed that a long-range program be laid out to include training requirements, equipment requirements, US advisory requirements, and US units assuming that it is going to require approximately 3 years to bring the VC in SVN under control. SecDef pointed out that we will have a big replacement job next year for US personnel; about 8,000 will have to be replaced. We must get moving now on language training, guerrilla training and other related items in order to keep the pipeline full. Adm Felt noted that in the materiel field, availability of helicopters for VNAF would be a problem. SecDef stated that production of helicopters could be speeded up and directed that optimum requirements be submitted in order that FY 64 procurement can be expedited.
4.
The subject of availability of VNAF pilots was discussed and BGen Anthis pointed out the major problem of obtaining GVN clearances for personnel to be sent to CONUS for pilot training.
5.
SecDef then stated that we are behind schedule in our Defended Hamlet-Strategic Village program and the key to the problem is wresting areas from VC control and protecting the population. We must take a conservative view and assume it will take 3 years instead of one year. We must line up our long range program as it may become difficult to retain public support for our operations in Vietnam. The political pressure will build up as US losses continue to occur. In other words we must assume the worst and make our plans accordingly.
6.
Gen Harkins pointed out that some areas are better than others and described successes in the Delta area where the GVN has increased its control in one area from 40% to 70% in the past year. He also pointed out that all actions are not VC actions but some are conducted by “bandits” which have been operating in SVN for thousands of years.
7.
SecDef announced that training of Citizens’ Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) would be assumed by DOD. The details for this takeover will be worked out by … COMUSMACV-CINCPAC and requirements reported to DOD.
8.
Mr Johnson asked about the morale of the CG and SDC. Gen Harkins stated that this was a problem in view of the large numbers of casualties, infiltration of SDC and CG by the VC, separation from families, no rotational policy for relieving troops in the field, and other matters. Amb Nolting stated that a request had been made to State Dept to provide PL 480 foodstuffs to help in this area.
9.
Adm Felt passed out CINCPAC Weekly Intelligence Digest of 20 July2 and called attention to articles on Vietnam.
[Page 550]

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

1.
Prepare plans for gradual scaling down of COMUSMACV during next 3-year period. (COMUSMACV)
a.
Prepare a long-range training program with view to establishing Officer Corps to manage GVN military operations.
b.
Objective is to give SVN an adequate military capability without the need for special US military assistance.
c.
Lay down long-range program and requirements to place material in country designed for turnover to RVNAF 3 years from now.
2.
Prepare optimum helicopter requirements for procurement in FY 64. (COMUSMACV)
3.
Prepare plan for replacing US personnel to be rotated out of SVN. Place personnel in training now and get into pipeline in time for replacement, e.g. language and intelligence training, etc. (COMUSMACV, CINCPAC, Service Depts)
4.
Update figures on CG/SDC training. (COMUSMACV/CINCPAC)
5.
Develop plan for DOD assumption of training responsibility for CIDG. (MGen KrulakCOMUSMACV/CINCPAC)
6.
Reexamine numbers of M-113ʼs and M-114ʼs required for SVN and advise SecDef. (COMUSMACV,CINCPAC)
7.
Speed up delivery of presently scheduled M-113ʼs and M-114ʼs from 1 June 1963 to 1 November 1962. UCS, DA).

Item #3—Strategic Hamlet Program.

Summary of Discussion

1.
Gen Harkins gave a brief description of the GVN strategic hamlet program. There is no overall government program for building strategic hamlets: Country Team is working with GVN committee, appointed last week, to develop this program. CT plan is to introduce materials as soon as possible for 1500 additional hamlets. Amb Nolting stated Country Team was pushing on all fronts with GVN to get orderly priorities. Situation still not clear. Basic problem is that GVN is building sporadically all over the country where it is safe to do so. CT agrees following priorities are paramount; First—Delta Region, Second—Coastal Region, Central SVN.
2.
Gen Harkins cited definite progress evidenced by Presidential Decree issued two weeks ago placing division commanders in charge of implementation of the strategic hamlet program in their respective division tactical zones.
3.
Amb Nolting indicated that the Country Team is working in closer relationship with GVN and can influence priority location of strategic hamlets by placing US assistance in areas we deem important.
4.

Sec McNamara asked what types and quantities of materials were needed for strategic hamlet construction, and what items came under MAP.

Col Buchanan, COMUSMACV, indicated that 397 villages had been programmed in FY 62 and FY 63 MAP for completion by the end of FY 63.MAP would support only such ordnance items as carbines, shotguns, Very pistols, flares and so forth. AID furnishes construction items such as barbed wire, steel posts, etc., plus communications equipment. Request is being completed to develop an add-on for FY 63 MAP budget of $4,000,000 for 1,500 additional villages. He cited the following planning figures:

a.
Each village averages four hamlets. There are roughly 2,500 villages and 17,000 hamlets in SVN.
b.
Village package consists of following organization: Four squads of 12 men each, armed with carbines, shotguns, Very pistols, and flares.
c.
Village periphery calculated at an average of 6 kilometers. Sec McNamara asked if the AID Budget carried complementary items for the number of villages mentioned under MAP. Mr Fippin,AIDSVN, stated that AID program had been planned complementary to the number of villages planned for MAP. He made the following points:
(1)
AIDSVN has authority for 67 villages in FY 62.
(2)
AIDSVN has $3,000,000 for 330 villages, the same numbers planned by COMUSMACV for FY 63.
(3)
AIDSVN and MAP are preparing a request for FY 63 for 1,500 more villages. AIDSVN will request $13,000,000 as part of a $22,000,000 add-on package for the FY 63 SVNAID Budget.

5.
Sec McNamara asked Mr. Janow, Assistant Administrator AID Washington, if AID could make available funds to cover the $13,000,000 item. Mr. Janow stated he had $15,000,000 initially earmarked for SVN. Sec McNamara emphasized the vital nature of the strategic hamlet program and asked that the AID/MAP hamlet programs be organized, balanced, and a report returned to Washington.
6.
Adm Felt brought up the fact that many critics hold the hamlet program as being of no value and equate it to the old French program. He stated that the two were not the same and we need to do something to emphasize the effectiveness of the hamlet program. The SecDef called for a series of articles to educate the populace. Adm Felt stated we have been putting emphasis on the CG/SDC in defending the villages, thus freeing ARVN units for pursuit of Viet Cong. Sec McNamara mentioned a pessimistic report of the Washington teams on the hamlet program and indicated perhaps Washington was uninformed with respect to the progress mentioned by Gen Harkins. Sec McNamara asked Assistant SecDef Sylvester (PA) to look into the situation with CINCPAC and COMUSMACV representatives in order to get good material into the press.
[Page 552]

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

1.

Insure MAP and AID, SVN programs for Strategic Hamlets are balanced and equated to each other. (COMUSMACV, CINCPAC, AID)

[Here follow items 4. Communications Capabilities, 5. Intelligence, and 6. Clandestine Radio Stations.]

. . . . . . .

4.
Adm Felt said that we do not necessarily need Special Forces personnel for all these tasks, but that other qualified people could do the job. CINCPAC has been of this opinion for a long time. Adm Anderson3 stated that Gen Hamlett4 shares this opinion.

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

1.
Sec McNamara made the decision that DOD will assume responsibility for the training of Citizensʼ Irregular Defense Groups, subject to agreement as to details. (DOD, … CINCPAC, COMUSMACV)
2.
Teams will be introduced on schedule without waiting for details to be worked out. (DOD, … CINCPAC, COMUSMACV)
3.
Draw up schedule of output of trained irregulars (COMUSMACV- … )
4.
Organize assets according to schedule of trainee output. (COMUSMACV- … )

Item #8—Appraise the political and economic progress of GVN.

Summary of Discussion

1.
Amb Nolting stated that there is a fear on part of GVN that the United States may change its policy toward SVN. We have to nip this in the bud and convince the GVN that they donʼt have to fear a Laos-type neutrality.
2.
Amb Nolting mentioned the piaster problem and fact that US aid must be backed up by sufficient VN-generated funds. SecDef said that the piaster problem should be discussed in plenary session later in the day (see Item #10).
3.
SecDef then addressed the gold problem by saying that we are not going to solve it by reducing our job in SVN. SVN has No. 1 priority in foreign exchange when supported by valid military requirements. He said that he assumed State and AID would act accordingly.
4.
Amb Nolting said that he looks upon the Strategic Hamlet Program as a principal arm of the general pacification program. He pointed out that, in addition to strengthening the village physical [Page 553]defenses, it was necessary to develop the will of the village people to resist. Mr Phillips added that hamlets which demonstrate the will to resist are targets of the VC. SecDef asked what arms the villagers possessed. Mr Phillips said shotguns, grenades, and some French rifles.SecDef then said not to let shortage of arms keep us from arming the villagers properly. Requisition carbines if they can do the job better. We should indicate the number of people in the villages that should be armed with the carbine.
5.
Amb Nolting said GVN is hurting for trained manpower, not only in military but in all branches of government. GVN is doing better and quality of Province Chiefs is improving. Developments in education were highlighted and Mr Phillips, in answering question by SecDef, said that the school capacity has increased.
6.
Amb Nolting pointed out that organizational arrangements on American side their linking with GVN side was greatly improved. Amb Nolting said members of hamlet councils must have a living wage. GVN wants to pay 300 piasters per month. This is not enough. SecDef said he wished the Sub-Committee on piasters to think about PL 480; that there is no limit on the amount of goods that the United States will supply. Amb Nolting is encouraged by the GVN planning not to stop improvements in the education of leaders at hamlet and village level but to go on up to higher levels of government. SecDef pointed out that we should get to the US press the fact that village officials will be elected.
7.
Amb Nolting said that economic progress also depends on the success of the pacification program. He said that there is better economic planning. Now there is a more realistic point of view displayed by GVN on deficit financing—hopes that we can make good on this. Agreed with Gen Harkins that we have signs for encouragement.
8.
Mr Fippin said that some hamlets will be overrun, that it was not intended that they stand fast against all odds. In regard to local administrators, the National Institute of Administration has trained 500 people. Each province has a training leader conducting formal training programs.

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

1. Use carbines for arming villagers. Indicate how many villagers should be armed with the carbine and forward requirements. (COMUSMACV)

Item #9—Progress of MAP for SVN with emphasis on FY 63.

Summary of Discussion

1.
Capt Byrnside (J5 CINCPAC) charted MAP Program for FY 63 and projected deliveries FY 63-68.
2.
Amb Nolting requested guidance on what to say to the press on amount of money being spent in SVN per year. Sec McNamara stated US policy in this respect is not to make public the specific dollar amount.
3.
During Capt Byrnsideʼs discussion of ARVN deliveries for FY 63 and projected deliveries for FY 63-68 Sec McNamara stated he needed a more detailed break-down of the force maintenance figure of 47.1 million for ARVN plus 20 or 30 million for the Navy and Air Force for a total of approximately 70 million. Sec McNamara directed Adm Heinz to give him details on the 70 million force maintenance request prior to approval. Adm Felt added that experience factors and better training of the RVNAF in maintenance of equipment would decrease the force maintenance total.
4.
During the discussion of the Air Force items Capt Byrnside pointed out that additional 18 HUS-1ʼs in the 63 program would provide for a second squadron of helicopters. Sec McNamara asked when the VNAF pilots would be trained and ready for these helicopters. Gen Anthis stated this would occur in 1964.
5.
Amb Nolting then pointed out that entry of additional US equipment into SVN could raise an ICC contention that we are violating Article 17 of the Geneva Accords. In response to a SecDef question regarding the Article 17 limitation Amb Nolting stated it was hard to sort out, but gave helicopters as an example. Sec McNamara stated, as a basic principle, that equipment would be taken in and that the US would proceed on the basis that the equipment is owned and operated by SVN. In this process, if the US is cited by the ICC, this is a risk we have to take. Sec McNamara asked Adm Heinz to work with the military departments to package and deliver items in an inconspicuous manner.SecDef stated he was willing to absorb the extra expense involved.
6.
Capt Byrnside pointed out that the force maintenance budget for SVN included attrition, replacement, follow-on spares, POL and MAAG administration, as well as training.
7.
Sec McNamara asked if there is a shortage of medical supplies in SVN. Gen Timmes stated there is no shortage of medical supplies; that he has inspected many medical warehouses and there are adequate stocks. Amb Nolting stated that the GVN has imposed rigorous controls on the issue of medical supplies to prevent their falling into the hands of the VC. Sec McNamara then stated that the shortage was reported in connection with the SDC/CG. Gen Timmes answered that we are only responsible for taking care of treating wounded personnel from the CG. Adm Felt asked about Filipino help in alleviating the shortage of medical personnel. Amb Nolting replied that Pres Diem is [Page 555]not sold on the Philippine offer (Operation Brotherhood). Sec McNamara then asked if the CG has radio equipment and was informed by Gen Timmes that they have one radio per platoon.

Decisions Made And Actions To Be Taken

1.
Reference information to be given to the press. US policy is not to divulge the specific dollar amount per year spent in SVN. (COMUSMACV, CINCPAC)
2.
Sec McNamara requests details of 70 million force maintenance item for SVN prior his approval. (RAdm Heinz, DOD/ISA)
3.
Sec McNamara requests he be informed on problems involved in effecting inconspicuous deliveries of major items of equipment in order that DOD can work out solutions. (DOD, MGen Krulak, CINCPAC, COMUSMACV)

Item #10—Progress of AID for SVN with emphasis on FY 63, to include progress in training village and provincial administrators.

Summary of Discussion

1.
This item was mentioned briefly under item #8 but deferred until item #10 discussion.
2.
Amb Nolting stated that a sub-committee earlier in the day had studied the problem as to what to do about the piaster shortage. Amb Nolting pointed out that it was necessary to keep momentum on GVN side of the picture. Application of economic and social measures at village level is essential to success in SVN. In order to accomplish this, radical changes should be made in the AID Program as follows:
a.
Shift emphasis from long-range AID projects to short-range village and Montagnard aid.
b.
AID can be made effective only by breaking away from some of the existing restrictive procedures, thereby achieving flexibility in funding.
c.
Project aid should be increased from $27 million for FY 62 to $83 million for FY 63.
d.
Scale down commercial aid allocated for FY 62 to generate piasters.GVN has agreed to deficit financing of 3-1/2 billion piasters. Import program of $120 million commercial aid will prevent inflation and get SVN through this calendar year. GVN will have to use deficit financing of at least $120 million to get through next year (their FY 63). To back up military expenses and efforts, some new paths in AID program must be cut; i.e., stand behind GVN on the import program.
e.
With regard to problem of off-shore procurement and gold outflow, Amb would request waiver of US supply requirement on a case-by-case basis.
3.
Sec McNamara agreed with Amb Nolting and mentioned that he should continue to request waivers. We should further be willing to accept the price penalty.
4.
Sec McNamara stated he was willing and anxious to take over financing of certain AID programs that have military application. However, to do this the MAP-AID programs for FY 63 must be reviewed. Sec McNamara directed Mr Bundy to look into this.
5.
Amb Nolting stated the foregoing discussion should cure the piaster problem but that if abuses against people by GVN, i.e., attempts to save on expenditures with “free labor”, continue we may have to impose restrictions or changes on US AID program.

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

1.
Amb will continue to request waivers on a case-by-case basis of AID items (Amb Saigon).
2.
Review FY 63 MAP-AID projects with view to MAP taking over financing of certain AID projects that have military application. (DOD, AID, CINCPAC, COMUSMACV, AID-Saigon)

[Here follow sections on Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and general subjects.].

  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 307, Honolulu Meeting, July 23, 1962. Top Secret. No drafting or clearance information is given on the source text. A 10-page summary of the discussions is ibid. Attached to the source text were a cover sheet, a memorandum of distribution, and a memorandum of transmittal from Felt to McNamara, dated July 26.
  2. Not found.
  3. Vice Admiral George W. Anderson Jr., Chief of Staff to Admiral Felt.
  4. Lt. Gen. Barksdale Hamlett, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of the Army.