288. Paper Prepared by the Presidentʼs Military Representative (Taylor)1
IMPRESSIONS OF SOUTH VIETNAM
1. General Impression
Much progress has been accomplished since my visit in October 1961. The most notable perhaps is the snowballing of the strategic hamlet program which has resulted in some 5,000 hamlets being fortified or in process of fortification. Improved training of the Army, the Civil Guard, and the Self-Defense Corps has resulted in freeing many more Army battalions for mobile, offensive operations. The clarifying of the channel of command between Saigon and Army units in the field has been improved, but is still spotty. In some cases, the Province Chief can not intervene in the command channel, but in others he still retains prerogatives, depending upon his personal relations with Diem.
The refusal of the Montagnards to accept Communist domination and their preference to give up their homes and move out of the mountains is another encouraging indication of growing popular support for the Diem Government. Finally, the statistics—for what they are worth—indicate improvement in comparative casualties, in the reduced loss of weapons to the enemy, and in the freeing of a larger segment of the population and of the national territory from VC domination.
2. The Infiltration Problem
Unresolved remains the problem of closing the frontiers to infiltration through Laos and Cambodia. The exact amount of infiltration is still unverified but there is no doubt that important reinforcements in men and matériel reach the VC across these frontiers. On the other hand, the improved patrolling of the coastal waters leads us to believe that very little is coming in by water.
The only current plan to meet the overland infiltration problem is the proposed organization of tribesmen in the border areas to watch the trails and to report infiltration to reserve units in rear. It will be sometime before this program is established to any significant degree. Eventual effectiveness is uncertain.[Page 661]
3. National Plan for Eradicating the VC
There is still no coordinated national plan establishing priorities for operations against the VC. General Harkins has proposed the concept of a national levee en masse of loyalist forces to attack simultaneously the VC strongholds throughout the country. He has offered this concept to President Diem who has apparently accepted it. It remains to be seen whether a feasible plan can be produced to execute the concept. If it proves feasible, presumably it will be incorporated in the 3-year plan which General Harkins is drawing up at Secretary McNamaraʼs direction.
4. Proliferation of Para-military Forces
At the present time, or in the foreseeable future, there will be the following para-military forces in SVN, in addition to the Civil Guard of 72,000 and the Self-Defense Corps of 65,000, supported wholly or in part, directly or indirectly by the U.S.
|Force Populaire Program||8,000|
|Republican Youth Program||6,000|
|Civic Action Cadre||2,600|
|Catholic Youth Program||2,675|
|Montagnard Commando Program:|
|Civilian Irregular Defense Program|
|(This applies to the STRIKE forces only)|
While each of these organizations has considerable justification for existence, their number raises a real question as to whether they should not be amalgamated and their direction centralized.
5. Press Attitude
The local Saigon press, particularly the American component, remains uninformed and often belligerently adverse to the programs of the U.S. and SVN Governments. Both Ambassador Nolting and General Harkins need help at home to improve the press coverage of [Page 662] SVN events, and to obtain the support of publishers in obtaining responsible reporting. The GVN must play a major role in improving the Saigon environment for the press in order to gain such support.
6. Improvement of Intelligence
A great deal has been done in the last ten months to improve the quality of intelligence emanating from SVN…. The current impression is, however, that much remains to be done. On the encouraging side is the improved efficiency of direction finding techniques to locate VC radio sets.
7. R&R Requirements
General Harkins reports concern over his inability to send his personnel on R&R leave to such places as Hong Kong and Manila. JCS authority limits him to providing transportation for such purposes on a space available basis. He points out that he has no legitimate reason for sending his available aircraft to Hong Kong or Manila; hence in point of fact, there are no R&R possibilities.
8. The U.S. Command Set Up in Southeast Asia
We seem to be establishing a deeply layered command structure in Southeast Asia. My initial impression is that for both SVN and Thailand we intend to have a typical unified command structure with General Harkins at the top of each. This matter must be investigated further, to include the stated requirement for a 3-star Air Force Deputy for General Harkins.
. . . . . . .
10. How Are We Doing?
I was encouraged to find that there is a more methodical reporting system to check than I had realized, utilizing American personnel in the field to report indicators of progress in the campaign against the VC. This system consists of a listing of pertinent questions, which are revised periodically, and sent to the MAAG advisors in the field on a monthly basis. A comparison of the most current set of answers with those which have preceded it leads to a judgment within each Province as to the change in control of the areas concerned. From this information it is possible to analyze the relative progress of the GVN in extending its influence throughout the country. The accuracy of the system depends on the framing of the questions and on the perceptivity of the advisor observers. The question listing which is now in use is [Page 663] to be passed to other members of the Country Team so that in the next revision its content will reflect “in put” of all interested agencies. Up to this time this has been a MACV project exclusively.
11. Outstanding Questions
- How best to organize the U.S. military command in Southeast Asia?
- How to improve the reporting system on progress?
- How to accelerate the socio-political program in support of Diemʼs Government?
- How to lift the country in an enthusiastic victory drive when the preparations are ready?