286. Minutes of the Eighth Meeting of the Southeast Asia Task Force, Washington, September 19, 1962, 2:30–4 p.m.1
- 1. Deputy Director—Mr. Cottrell
- 2. State—Mr. Koren, Director of Working Group on Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
- 3. CIA—Mr. Fitzgerald
- 4. JCS—Brig. Gen. Clay
- 5. Defense—Rear Adm. Heinz
- 6. Treasury—Mr. Diehl
- 7. AID—Mr. Ellis
- 8. USIA—Mr. Moore
- 9. Budget—Mr. Weems
William Trueheart, Minister at Saigon, and William Fippin, Deputy Director of USOM, Saigon, reported to the Task Force on the situation in South Viet Nam. Following are summaries of their comments:
Comments by Mr. Trueheart
Mr. Trueheart said he was tremendously encouraged by developments in South Viet Nam. The military progress had been little short of sensational and the intelligence capability had been greatly improved. [Page 656] Training for the Civil Guard units had begun to pay off, but more training was needed for the Self-Defense Corps. Mr. Trueheart noted that the Viet Cong have not yet made any large scale attacks even though the rainy season has begun and that this is evidence of the improved military situation. He said the Strategic Hamlet program has transformed the countryside and that he did not think the Viet Cong could now destroy the program. South Viet Namʼs government organization to implement the program has improved and the plan is now better understood both in Saigon and locally.
He said the biggest political move by the government was to convince the people that Montagnards were equals. He said the exodus of these people will hurt the Viet Cong and that the Montagnards have demonstrated they will fight to defend themselves. He noted that the way to destroy infiltration is to make it impossible for the infiltrators to support and maintain themselves on the plateau. Mr. Trueheart said that all these developments have taken place since last Christmas.
Commenting on U.S.-Viet Nam relations, he said the government was now more willing to accept our advice. He thought that interagency relations in the U.S. mission at Saigon were excellent.
In response to a question about the border situation in Cambodia, Mr. Trueheart said that, since there is no question that the Viet Cong are down along the border, there are bound to be incidents. He thought the two governments should try to develop some kind of informal cooperation between their respective military establishments.
The one gloomy spot in the picture, he noted, was the missionʼs relations with the U.S. press corps. He asked for suggestions as to how to deal with this problem. The press, he said, believes that the situation in Viet Nam is going to pieces and that we have been unable to convince them otherwise. This matter was discussed briefly by the working group and Mr. Cottrell suggested that it be brought to USIA, Ed Murrowʼs, attention.
Comments by Mr. William Fippin
Mr. Fippin said he had been in South Viet Nam for five and one-half years. He stressed the cooperation among the U.S. agencies in Saigon. He noted that counterinsurgency was a new field of U.S. effort and that funds had first been shifted to this work in fiscal year 1962. It was only possible to begin funding properly in fiscal year 1963. He estimated that 25% of the missionʼs 62 budget had gone to this purpose and 2/3 or 3/4 of it would be used this year.
He said that the GVN was beginning to shift its emphasis from creating an urban infra-structure to matters of rural concern. The mission is now able to work at the local level, instead of only through the [Page 657] central government. About 1,200 radio sets had been installed and the program was proceeding well. He thought the supply situation was steadily improving.
Mr. Fippin noted that the Strategic Hamlet program was directed primarily by the government of Viet Nam and that our support was limited.
Mr. Fippin wanted to show some films on the Strategic Hamlet program next week, which had been produced by the Viet-Namese government.
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 26.2