295. Letter From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting)1

Dear Fritz: I think Thuanʼs visit was very successful—particularly in terms of the press.

We have sent a round-up telegram and memos of his conversations with the President, the Secretary, the Attorney General and Fowler Hamilton.2 He also had talks with the following:

Walt Rostow—Dr. Rostow was sympathetic and perhaps the most understanding of Thuanʼs interlocutors. He urged adoption of the amnesty program, pointing out that the most critical part of such a program was getting the signal through to the VC. Dr. Rostow made three suggestions in order to improve and strengthen relations between the Government and the villagers:

The organization of Vietnamese students from the towns to do civic action work in the villages, not only to help the villagers but to increase the students’ understanding of the war which their country faces (this idea sounded particularly good to me).
A conscious GVN policy to encourage industries to manufacture goods needed by the peasants. This would help industry since “a rapidly growing industry must be based on the whole country, not just on the city”. It would also provide incentive goods for the peasants. Thuan agreed. He mentioned the problem of getting loans from the IDA and yen from U.S. Treasury accounts.
Train draftees whose terms of enlistment are ending so that they will have useful skills when they return to their villages. This has been done in Korea and some Korean experts might help in setting up such a program.

On Laos he emphasized that the U.S. was working with Viet-Nam in a life and death struggle. At the same time we had responsibilities which, while they may be of second importance to Viet-Nam are important to world order and in the long run will be important to Viet-Nam. He asked that Viet-Nam help us in responsibilities which are important to the United States in its position of world leadership.

Frank Valeo—As you know, Valeo is Senator Mansfieldʼs closest adviser. After 15 minutes with Senator Mansfield we had lunch with Valeo and Thuan later had a talk with him in his hotel. I think Frank benefited from this lengthy contact with Thuan. He started with the theme that Viet-Nam must have as an ultimate objective a reunified and neutral Viet-Nam. The more we talked about the problems of reunifying Viet-Nam and having it defend itself as a neutral the more Frank agreed that the ultimate should probably be postponed to the infinite.

Other Congressional Contact—included Senator Hickenlooper, Senator Mundt, Congressman Zablocki, Congressman Bloomfield (RIll.), Congresswoman Church, Assistants Carl Marcy and John Newhouse. Congressman Zablocki was the only one of the last who even indirectly raised the question of whether Diemʼs leadership was adequate.

As to the press, he was invited to lunch with several editors from the New York Times, met Mr. Wiggins a senior editor of the Washington Post who has connections with Newsweek (Wiggins asked that if either publication made factual errors in reporting, Thuan get in touch with Wiggins by cable or through his Ambassador), Joe Alsop, Ted Weinthal of Newsweek, and Carl Meyer, a Washington Post editorial writer. I also had two-hour discussion with Meyer. Thuan also held an open press conference on the afternoon of September 25.

Mike Forrestal and Carl Kaysen of the White House StaffForrestal spoke strongly on Laos representation. He pointed out that East and West Germany both send Ambassadors to Moscow although they do not recognize each other. Thuan raised Japanese yen in U.S. accounts. This would take legislation, possibly next January;AID thinks it impossible but Forrestal has told Thuan that something might be worked out.

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The Vice President was only able to see Thuan for five minutes due to the crisis on the aid bill. He expressed admiration for the progress in Viet-Nam, said he hoped to make another visit, and assured Thuan of our continued prayers and support.

On the military side Thuan saw Secretary McNamara who bucked up Thuanʼs morale and impressed him strongly. He also saw General Lemnitzer whom Thuan asked for more H-34s.

Other events included a formal State Department luncheon given by Governor Harriman and a dinner by Roger Hilsman. Thuan had two or three visits to Bethesda Naval Hospital. I gather the tests revealed nothing abnormal. I must say he looked better than when I saw him in May.

We have pouched Thuanʼs speech at the Bank and Fund Meeting.3

Looking forward to seeing you on the 8th.

Very sincerely,

Chalmers B. Wood4
  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, Thuan Visit, September 62. Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. For memoranda of Thuanʼs conversations with the President and Rusk, see Documents 285 and 292; regarding the conversations with the Attorney General and Fowler Hamilton. see Document 284 and footnote 2, Document 287.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.