298. Memorandum From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • VIET-NAM: Decisions and Discussion at Honolulu Meeting, October 8, 19622

This is an unofficial résumé of decisions and discussions on Viet-Nam at the Honolulu Meeting, October 8, 1962. This paper is written for the information of Messrs. Johnson and Rice and for the record.

I. Decisions

Get a B-26 unit flown by RVNAF into action as soon as possible.
Expand VNAF as fast as possible.

II. Discussions

General Harkins Briefing and Secretary McNamaraʼs Comments and Decisions (At the Meeting)

General Harkins showed that VC battalion-sized operations had declined steadily. There were 8 in May, 1 each in June and July, and none in August or September. On the other hand, ARVN battalion-sized operations had increased from 156 to a high of 454 in August, down to 378 in September. VNAF sorties had increased from 150 in January to 628 in September. Ambassador Nolting commented that evidence from the VC showed that these operations were hurting them and that there was no evidence from the VC that they considered they were getting any propaganda advantages from them.

General Harkins and General Anthis pointed out that American pilots are flying 100 hours a month which could not be maintained and that more planes and personnel were needed now.

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Secretary McNamara stated that the initial objective was for US not to carry the burden of the combat. The following objectives were agreed upon:

To get a B-26 unit flown by Vietnamese pilots into action as soon as possible. In this connection to explore the use of VN C-47 pilots for B-26s, and the possible use of Chinese pilots in C-47s.
To expand the VNAF as fast as possible, having in mind Thuanʼs estimate that it could be expanded to 10,000.
Secretary McNamara said “If you really want more US pilots, make recommendations, but they will be received coolly”. The Secretary emphasized that our objectives are to help the Vietnamese fight their war and to reduce, not increase, our own combat role.

General Anthis showed that Farmgate operations had been successful in convoying trucks. An average of 32 convoys a month had been escorted by planes from January through June and this had increased to 178 in September. None of the convoys had so far been ambushed.

General Harkins continued that generally Vietnamese troops were staying out longer. One battalion had stayed out for 3 weeks. However, there were cases where Vietnamese soldiers were not as fit nor as well-led as they should be. Recently one group had eaten up all their food too soon and gotten their feet wet, etc., to the point where they had to be pulled back prematurely. The Ninth Division was now operational, the 26th Division (which would be Viet-Namʼs 10th) was due in January. Two additional VN airborne battalions and 2 VN Marine battalions are now ready. (General Timmes commented before the meeting that there are now 4 Vietnamese paratroop battalions, but that they were not much used; this was partly because it was easier to get troops in and out by helicopters.) The men and organizations needed to handle the last large arrivals of M113s and M114 personnel carriers are now ready. (The Secretary commented that although these vehicles are in short supply, more could be made available for Viet-Nam if needed.) Staff planning had improved but was still weak. Logistic support was better. CO and DOC training would be finished as scheduled by the end of the year. Mobile training teams for these outfits had not worked out well, but some of it was being continued. There was a new airfield at Pleiku. Helicopter training was now being carried out in Viet-Nam. Civilian Irregular Defence Groups (CIDG) had made good progress. The Strategic Hamlet program was OK. Intelligence had shown great improvement and was being better used.

Defoliation operations in the Delta were very successful. Six target areas would soon be finished. 100,000 leaflets were dropped each time one of these operations was carried out. (Secretary McNamara asked for further recommendations on defoliation. As to crop destruction, he told General Harkins to assume that he could get rapid Washington [Page 690] approval for substitution of test sites providing the same high standard of choosing these sites was maintained. It was agreed that General Delmore3 who was then in Honolulu would be sent back to Saigon to supervise crop destruction.)

54 junks had been delivered and although there was squabbling amongst the contractors, another 143 were to be delivered during October. There had been no sabotage recently in this program. The tropo-scatter was working.

General Harkins then presented his ideas for an explosive type operation. The concept had been approved by Secretary Thuan and President Diem. Even if there are 30,000 hard-core VC as estimated by the GVN (the US estimate is 20,000) their forces were far inferior to the Vietnamese who have the equivalent of 51 trained divisions. The objective, therefore, is to conduct a nation-wide offensive to exert sudden and continuing pressure on known areas of VC concentration. This required a planning phase, a preparatory phase, which would include saturation bombing against VC installations, especially in Zone D. Theoretically the explosive phase would consist of full-scale coordinated operations exploding at every level from the rice roots to the national level and finally follow-up operations. In replying to a question from General Taylor, General Harkins said that such an operation might have to be repeated several times. He emphasized the preparations which would be made, particularly in the chain of command which would eliminate the field command and bring it to General Tyʼs Joint Command Staff. (This had been accepted in principle by President Diem.) Improvement would also be made in the disposition of Vietnamese troops, prepositioning of equipment, intelligence training, planning, etc.

General Harkins did not have time to present his plan for phasing out US personnel in Viet-Nam within 3 years. It is understood that this would involve large increases in the US MAP for the next 3 years and for the Vietnamese Defense budget. It would also involve very large increases in the number of Vietnamese under arms. For example, an increase of the SDC to about 140.000.

Armed Helicopters (Corridor Discussion)

Several officers were asked about the July recommendation that helicopters be armed. The answers were generally unclear and somewhat discouraging. General Anthis pointed out that it was difficult to fire accurately from an armed helicopter due to vibration and that it presented a relatively stationary target to VC on the ground. He recognizes the political importance of improving protection for US helicopter crews and agreed that the helicopters should be armed, at least to [Page 691] see what could be done to improve the situation. Major General Rowny who has participated in the field tests leading to the Howza (?)4 report, and who is going to Viet-Nam to supervise research and development, was more optimistic. He was also anxious to conduct experiments in mounting 2.75 inch recoilless artillery in helicopters. This would permit the helicopters to remain at a greater distance and still inflict damage on the VC. Both he and General Anthis agreed that the best helicopter operation was to use fixed-wing aircraft to soften up an area with bombs, napalm, and strafing, then bring in the helicopters as quickly as possible.

… the reason for the delay in arming helicopters was the Air Force reluctance to have the Army demonstrate that its helicopters could be effectively armed. This was certainly reflected in remarks by Anthis to the effect that the helicopters were not designed as armed vehicles.

USIA (Corridor Discussion)

John Mecklin is asking for projectors and generators for all MAAG advisers. USIA is replying to the effect that he should look for all available in-country equipment and that USIA will then see what more can be added. It is believed that there is a great deal of in-country equipment. The total cost of Mecklinʼs request even if no in-country equipment is used would be about $200,000.

. . . . . . .

AID (Corridor Discussion)

Mr. Brent had no problems which required help from the Washington end. However, AID is concerned about reaching an understanding with DOD (Bill Bundy) about who will pay for the Strategic Hamlet kits in late FY 63 and thereafter. It is hoped that this will be worked out in Honolulu on October 9. AID is also stirring up some new ideas about how to get more done for the Vietnamese peasants. We will hear about this shortly.

. . . . . . .

  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 307. Secret. Drafted by Wood on October 10; initialed by Rice and Wood; next to Johnsonʼs name on the source text is the word “Saw.”
  2. No other report on the Honolulu meeting has been found.
  3. Brigadier General Fred J. Delmore, U.S. Army.
  4. The question mark appears on the source text.