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

337. Reference: Departmentʼs telegram 327.2 Below is summary General Taylorʼs conversation with President Diem September 11. Memo of conversation being pouched.3

In his opening remarks President Diem said that inability to form a valid estimate and pessimism prevalent in some circles, particularly the press, was result of failure to keep entire picture in mind at all times. Ambassador Nolting called his attention to recent objective New Yorker article by Shaplen. President next told General Taylor that VC had been forced revise their plans to overrun SVN and that present VC general plan is, in order of priority: Disrupt Strategic Hamlet Program, intensify propaganda vis-à-vis military, and give all out support to neutralist movement. In response query from General Taylor, President said he recognized value of helicopter support but stressed importance of artillery, pointing out role of his road building program to permit its deployment. The President next spoke of his recent directive to strike at heart of enemy, keep him on move and to plot and destroy all remote areas where VC could grow food or find safe havens. General Taylor agreed enemy must be pressed constantly. President mentioned long-range—to 1966—air support plan, saying that perspective of additional air power raised morale of people, gave impression of governmental stability and carried implication that program could be stepped up in emergency. President then mentioned VC buildup in Tchepone and Attopeu and said that possibility of Hitler type “folly” could not be discounted. As evidence that Strategic Hamlet Program was beginning to dry up VCʼs revenue within Vietnam he [Page 643] said that his Consul in Hong Kong had uncovered evidence that large amounts of piasters were being purchased there by Communists. Some of this money was to buy betrayal of SDC and CG members.

In answer to General Taylorʼs question, President said that all 16,000 strategic hamlets would be needed, in addition to a certain number for protection of Montagnards. He said he considered that support of Montagnards trained and equipped to go back to their native haunts would constitute permanent advantage to government. He expressed doubt that, by themselves, they could be entrusted with defense of borders and spoke at length of their child-like nature and lack of initiative and leadership qualities. General Taylor emphasized that if Montagnards could be made into border guards, this would help considerably in solution of border problem.

General Taylor asked if President was happy with progress made since earlier Taylor visit.4 President replied in affirmative, stating Vietnamese were geared to idea of rational progress toward ultimate victory. He added that two of most important gains since General Taylorʼs last visit had been acquisition of thorough knowledge of terrain and emergence of competent military leaders. In economic field, President said, loss last year of 300,000 tons of rice, exportable part of harvest, had been low, but of course, it had not been publicized in order not give comfort to enemy. He produced charts showing good progress in production other crops, particularly in production of textiles, cotton, sugar and kenaf. He emphasized that his aim was to develop an industry which could be supplied from locally produced raw materials and that he had no interest in “prestige” assembly plants constructed by foreign capital in return for long term contracts for purchase of raw materials.

At end of meeting, President Diem said that he asked British Embassy to confirm arrangements with Phnom Penh for expedition of military mission to Cambodia.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 120.1590/9-2262. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad.
  2. Dated September 15. It asked the Embassies visited by General Taylor to transmit summary cables on the substantive discussions at each capital. (Ibid., 120.1590/9-1562)
  3. The meeting took place at 5 p.m. at the Gia Long Palace. A copy of the 11-page memorandum for the record of this conversation is in Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, Sgn(62)42 Taylor Visit.
  4. For documentation on Taylorʼs visit to Vietnam in October 1961, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Documents 169 ff.
  5. Next to this paragraph in the source text was the handwritten note “Oh Lord”.