42. Paper Prepared by the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman)1


I. Enemy Situation

1. Present Strength.

Present Viet Cong strength in South Vietnam is as follows:

Regular forces—12,600
Irregular forces—13,300
Supporters and sympathizers—100,000

2. Character of Viet Cong Forces.

The regular forces are full-time, relatively well-trained and equipped personnel. The cadres for the regular forces are frequently from North Vietnam, but the bulk of the personnel is recruited and trained locally.

The irregular forces are part-time guerrillas. They work by day and conduct operations at night, or they are brought together for a special operation to supplement a regular unit.

3. Areas of Concentration.

Map 1 shows the present concentrations of Viet Cong strength. It is at once evident that these concentrations are principally in less populated parts of South Vietnam with the notable exception of the two heavy concentrations in the Mekong River delta.

4. Viet Cong Strategy.

At present the Viet Cong forces are in a transitional stage from a guerrilla to a conventional type of warfare. As General Taylorʼs Report2 noted, the Viet Congʼs preferred strategy is one of political denouement,—[Page 74]preparing for conventional warfare, but hoping for a noncommunist coup against Diem that would create confusion and an opportunity for them to take over the country by political-guerrilla action. The Viet Cong have an offensive capability greater than they have exercised to date, but have proceeded slowly in order to consolidate, regroup, and extend their control throughout the countryside.

5. Methods of Viet Cong Control.

In many areas the Viet Cong have established overt or covert administrations, either setting up permanent, full-time government operations, or exercising a kind of shadow administration, functioning at night while the Government of Vietnam functions by day.

We must not assume that the Viet Cong depends solely or even principally on terror. The Viet Cong forces purchase food and other supplies rather than commandeer them. They tax in areas they control and elsewhere raise funds by “squeeze” on bus lines and truck companies operating in or through Viet Cong territory, by robbing government officials and supporters, and by ransom. In the areas south of Saigon, the Viet Cong add to their revenues through considerable export trade by junks with Singapore, principally in tobacco.

6. Reliance on Local Resources.

Much has been made of infiltration from North Vietnam. Except for money, however, very little in the way of weapons or supplies comes in from the North. In fact, the infiltration routes are used almost solely for bringing in trained cadres. These are important, especially to carry out the Viet Congʼs phased objective to transform guerrillas into regular forces, but cutting off the infiltration route would not by itself settle the Viet Cong problem. It is the people and villages of South Vietnam that are the Viet Congʼs real source of both supplies and recruits. Arms are largely those captured from the Vietnam forces, or are manufactured locally.

7. Use of Terror.

The Viet Cong resort to terror in the areas they control on a far lesser scale than has generally been believed. Instead, they seek to win the cooperation of the villagers, and use terror mainly in retaliation against unpopular government officials or villagers who communicate with or aid the Vietnam forces.

8. Conclusions.

The Viet Cong position in South Vietnam depends primarily upon maintaining access to the villages in areas under Viet Cong control or influence.
Infiltration of supplies and personnel from North Vietnam is only of secondary importance.
With their guerrilla tactics based on access to the villages and people, the Viet Cong since the latter part of 1961 have been inflicting roughly 1,000 casualties a month on the Vietnam forces and civilians. There is evidence, however, that the Viet Cong has now entered a transitional stage between guerrilla and conventional methods of warfare in line with the strategy expounded by Mao and Giap.
The struggle for South Vietnam, in sum, is essentially a battle for control of the villages.
This struggle cannot be won merely by attempting to seal off South Vietnam from the North. It must be won by cutting the Viet Cong off from their local sources of strength, i.e., by denying them access to the villages and the people.

II. Friendly Situation

1. Strength of Government of Vietnam Forces.

The military strength of the Government of Vietnam forces is as follows:

Regular Army—175,000
Civil Guard—67,000
Self Defense Corps—54,000

2. Proposed Increases.

It has been proposed to increase the Regular Army to 200,000. President Diem, however, desires a total strength of 278,000. It has also been proposed to increase the Self Defense Corps to 60,000. The present authorized but not actual strength of the Civil Guard is 72,000

3. The Problem of the Regular Army.

The most frequent complaint is that the Regular Army is tied down in static defensive positions rather than used as a mobile force which can take offensive. In fact, however, if the Army units were taken off their defense positions, the villages, bridges, and other protected installations would be at the mercy of the Viet Cong, and the economy would grind to a halt. Furthermore, no amount of regular troops used offensively will solve the Viet Cong problem unless the villagers themselves are protected and the Viet Cong thus cut off from their sources of supplies and recruits. If access is not denied, two or more Viet Cong will be recruited for every one that is killed.

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4. Inadequacy of Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps.

As recommended in the Taylor Report, there should be a drastic increase in the Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps. Steps have been taken in this direction, but more United States help is needed. With a population of 14 million there is only one Civil Guard personnel for every 210 people. Some provinces with a population of over one million have only 2,000 Civil Guards. Again, the Self Defense Corps is maintained at the ratio of only one Self-Defense Corpsman for every 240 people. In addition, the training of both forces is longer than is really needed. These men do not need to have all the skills of the thoroughly trained soldier. What they need to know beyond how to fire their weapons can be acquired in actual operations.

5. Conclusions.

The Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps should be very substantially increased to provide protection for the villages—not so much to free the Regular Army units, although this would be a desirable consequence, but to provide the villages with physical security and to cut off Viet Cong access to rice and people.
The present training period for the Civil Guard is now 24 weeks with a proposed reduction to 12 weeks. The Self Defense Corps is now receiving 6 weeks of training at special training centers. Training for both forces should be much shorter. Civil Guard training should be accomplished at the province or, better still, the district level. Self Defense Corps units should be trained in the villages from which they are recruited.
The technical skills needed for the construction of defenses and the skills for training must be supplied by the United States—by getting American non-commissioned officers and lieutenants out to the district and village level.

III. Political Situation

1. President Diemʼs Position.

The people of South Vietnam want to fight and are basically anti-Communist. Morale is much better as a result of General Maxwell Taylorʼs mission and President Kennedyʼs decisions to support South Vietnam. But this boost will be fleeting if we do not find ways to continue the momentum.
As General Taylor reported, President Diem is an old-fashioned Asian ruler who hesitates to delegate authority. Nevertheless, he does have the respect of his people. With due allowance for his shortcomings, it must be recognized that he is faced with real problems. His country is partly occupied and controlled by enemy forces which have [Page 77]a demonstrated capability of increasing the magnitude of their operations against his government. The very existence of his country is thus at stake.
Because of the adverse military situation, Diem is also faced with the real possibility of coup attempts by elements within South Vietnam. He is convinced that the Viet Cong are hoping most of all for a coup which will give the opportunity for them to move in. Diem also occasionally has doubts about the Americans on this score. Although he seems to be convinced that present United States policy is to support him, he is concerned that the United States will someday decide to engineer a coup if he lets American influence in South Vietnam become too great.
Finally, Diem does lack trained personnel, particularly at the lower levels. As General Taylor noted, there is no lack of dedication, but there is a great shortage of competence.

2. The United States Missions in South Vietnam.

Some United States personnel in all agencies have been in Vietnam too long and carry old grudges and frustrations, or are unduly influenced by the views of various South Vietnamese “dissidents.” These frustrated old-timers feed defeatist talk to the American press. They also talk to and encourage the “dissidents” among the French-educated South Vietnamese intellectuals who are concentrated in Saigon.
What is worse, some of these so-called “dissidents” actually are stalking horses for Diem who take criticism of Diem back to him, and thus complete the vicious circle of suspicion of the United States, frustration, and defeatism.
Moreover, the United States Missions in South Vietnam do not always work as a team. Each agency has its own views and concepts which have led to inter-agency jealousies and bickering. In all United States agencies, furthermore, much could be done to improve the quality of personnel.
While the top United States leadership is rapidly developing knowledge of the strategic concepts for fighting guerrillas, there is as yet no real understanding of these concepts at the working level. The problem here is one of leadership and articulation.

3. Conclusions.

Some easing of United States pressure on Diem for major reforms and reorganization of his government at the top seems called for. Although desirable, none of these are fundamental to the problem of cutting the Viet Congʼs access to the villages and the people.
We should turn our attention to providing help at the local level. What we need are sergeants, lieutenants, and Civic Action teams, including police trainers and public administrators, to work with the Vietnamese Government officials in the villages and with the troops in the field.
As recommended in the Taylor Report, in sum, we need more “working level friends and advisers”—Americans with technical competence, imagination, and human sympathy, and with the willingness and ability to live and work in the villages. As General Taylor said, such personnel exist and can be found and trained for the job.
Finally, there is an immediate need to develop a better understanding of the strategic concept for counterinsurgency war among working level Americans in all United States agencies in South Vietnam.

IV. The Strategic Concept

1. Basic Principles.

The strategic concept of an effective counterinsurgency operation in South Vietnam is expressed in the following principles:


First Principle. The problem presented by the Viet Cong is a political and not a military problem—or, more accurately, it is a problem in civic action.

The objective is to cut the Viet Cong off from their sources of supplies and recruits. Since both supplies and recruits come from within South Vietnam, this means cutting off the Viet Congʼs access to the villages and the people.

Measures must be taken to tie the villages into the network of government administration and control. Channels must be established through which information of the villages’ needs and problems can flow upward and government services can flow downward. The instruments for this task are public administration officials, police, public information services, etc.


Second Principle. An effective counterinsurgency plan must provide the people and the villages with protection and physical security.

Physical security, coupled with controls on the movement of people and supplies, will protect the villagers from being intimidated into selling the Viet Cong rice and from being persuaded or intimidated into joining the Viet Cong, and will prevent Viet Cong sympathizers from surreptitiously providing the guerrillas with supplies.

In addition, it is only by giving the people physical security that the intelligence problem can be solved. The intelligence problem in Vietnam is one of combat intelligence, not strategic intelligence. Espionage penetration of the Viet Cong will take too long to accomplish. And even then the results will not be satisfactory. For example, an agent in a Viet Cong unit will have a difficult problem in communicating. By the time he can get intelligence to the government on an [Page 79]impending attack, for example, the attack will probably have already taken place; by the time he can pass on information on the location of a Viet Cong unit he is with, the unit will have probably moved on.

Third Principle: Counter-guerrilla forces must adopt the tactics of the guerrilla himself. Conventional military tactics are ineffective against guerrillas.

2. Example: Past and Present.

The Third Principle merits elaboration by specific examples. Two have been chosen: the first from operations in Burma during World War II, and the second from the very recent operations in South Vietnam.


The Heho-Lawksawk-Taunggyi Operation, Burma.

In the Battle of Mandalay-Meiktila, an OSS group consisting of 4 Americans and 300 natives operated in the mountains along the Japanese secondary supply line, Meiktila-Taunggyi-Bangkok’ in the Heho-Lawksawk-Taunggyi triangle (see Map 2). The DSS guerrilla force blew bridges to restrict the movement of Japanese artillery and ambushed Japanese truck convoys. Although the Japanese forces could ill afford it, a Japanese regiment of 3,000 men was taken out of the battle for one month to pursue the OSS guerrilla group.

The Japanese method of operation, however, was conventional—they pursued with regiments and battalions along the major roads and attempted elaborate, set-piece traps. For example, when the guerrilla group was operating in the area just north of Taunggyi, the Japanese moved several battalions into a U-shaped position on the road feeding to Lawksawk and attempted to chivvy the OSS guerrilla group into the trap with the remaining battalion. Although the OSS group could easily have escaped by breaking into groups of two or three and assembling again at a later date, even this proved unnecessary. The OSS group marched north to encourage the Japanese to complete the execution of their plan and, at nightfall, turned west into the jungle and made their way into the mountains. The Japanese closed the trap on air.

At the end of one month the Japanese had suffered something over 100 casualties, and the OSS group had suffered one.

Had the Japanese adopted a different tactic, however, the guerrilla group would not have survived. What the Japanese should have done was to combine their greater mobility and discipline with guerrilla tactics. For example, they could have stationed half of their force at one of the major road junctions with trucks to provide rapid deployment so far as the road-net would permit. Then they could have divided the area in which the OSS guerrillas were operating into zones, and stationed a platoon or company in each of the zones with orders to operate as the guerrillas were operating, i.e., to patrol and ambush on all jungle trails and paths. Sooner or later one of these units would have met the OSS guerrillas. The mobile reserve could then have been deployed in order to ambush along the trails leading into the area and to reinforce troops engaged in combat. It is worth noting that once the OSS group were eliminated as an organized force by some such tactic, the Japanese should then have placed an effective [Page 80]administration over the area and its villages in order to prevent remnants of the OSS guerrilla force from returning as soon as the regular forces departed.


The Binh Hoa Operation, South Vietnam.

On January 21, 1962 a joint South Vietnamese-United States attack was undertaken against the Viet Cong at Binh Hoa (see Map 3). According to intelligence reports, there were 300 Viet Cone at Point A and a full Viet Cong battalion in huts around the edges of the Air Drop Zone. These reports were 4 or 5 days old, but air photos showed what appeared to be a munitions manufacturing installation at Point B and possibly munitions storage facilities at Point C.

The plan, prepared by the senior United States Military Advisor to the Vietnamese Army 3rd Corps, called for prepositioning four battalions in boats on the nver during the night before the operation.

At 0755 hours, B-26ʼs bombed and strafed Point A. (The terrain here consists of flat jungle. The bombers actually attacked a village just on the Cambodian side of the frontier, one and a half kilometers away, and killed and wounded a number of villagers.)

At 0800 hours, B-26ʼs attacked Point B and C with 500-pound bombs, while T-28ʼs attacked the huts surrounding the Air Drop Zone with rockets. When the first bomb exploded, the four battalions on boats disembarked. The bombing and strafing continued for 45 minutes. There was then a 15-minute lull, the beginning of which was marked by the firing of flares in front of each of the four battalions, which then began their advance.

The two battalions south of the canal between Points B and C wheeled right into a blocking position along the canal, and the two battalions north of the canal advanced directly to their front. At-00 hours, an airborne battalion parachuted on the Air Drop Zone and attacked in the direction of Point B. In Phase II of the operation, all troops conducted a sweep north of the Oriental River.

The plan was well and efficiently executed. It was, however, inappropriate in counterguerrilla warfare. The basic concept of creating a trap will rarely work against guerrillas. In general, counterguerrilla warfare requires that contact be made with the guerrillas by aggressive patrolling, and at that point troops should be brought up to form a trap by ambushing the trails and roads leading away from the area of contact.

The prepositioning of troops in boats was very likely to give the guerrillas prior warning of an attack.

The preparatory bombing also gave the guerrillas warning. In addition, it ran the risk of hlling innocent or at least persuadable villagers and thus recruiting more Communists than were killed. Preparatory bombing is suitable for attacks on prepared defenses in conventional war, but not for guerrilla war. There are no Siegfried lines in the jungle.

The results of the Binh Hoa operation confirm this analysis. According to after-action reports, no contact with the enemy was made in Phase I of the operation. However, five civilians were killed and eleven wounded. (Reports are unclear as to whether these casualties did or did not include the Cambodians killed in the misdirected strike at Point A.) According to Mr. Socharyk of Life Magazine, who followed [Page 81]the airdrop by helicopter, those killed in action included a two-year old boy, a five-year old girl, and a seven-year old boy. Mr. Socharyk also maintains that he can document his statements with photographs.

In Phase II of the operation—the sweep north of Oriental River—the Viet Cong lost 5 killed, 21 captured, and 60 suspects apprehended. Weapons and documents of intelligence value were captured. South Vietnamese casualties were six wounded.

It seems obvious that such an operation is not only fruitless but creates more Communists than it kills. Let it also be said, however that General McGarr, Chief of MAAG, took strong and positive action to correct the misconceptions apparent in this operation, and spoke to the military personnel involved in strong and unmistakable language.

In fairness, however, it must also be said that this is by no means an isolated occurrence. As a perusal of MAAGʼs military situation reports will show, operations by both Jungle Jim and military forces tend to follow tactics more appropriate to conventional, World War II situations than to guerrilla warfare.

Also in fairness, it should be noted that counterguerrilla operations are both new and radically different from American military experience, requiring soldiers to unlearn old lessons as well as to learn new ones. It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect men to abandon overnight principles learned the hard way in bloody and honorable combat in World War II and Korea. The fact that this is precisely what is needed in no way condemns the soldiers or excuses those who would criticize them.

As it turned out, the intelligence reports were essentially accurate. Local Vietnamese reported that one hour before the air strike an estimated 200 Viet Cong evacuated the Air Drop Zone.

The question is, how should the Binh Hoa operation have been conducted to take advantage of this intelligence?

In general, counterguerrilla operations should be so conducted as to make contact with the enemy through ground patrols before air strikes are mounted.

The intelligence about Viet Cong activities in Binh Hoa was on the whole good. The utilization of this intelligence was ineffective. The operation gave the Viet Cong ample warning and they apparently took full advantage of it.

The rationale for the preliminary air strike was human and understandable: paratroopers in the air are vulnerable, and an air strike will tend to protect them. Nevertheless, a preliminary air strike in counterguerrilla operations is indefensible.

The rationale for the use of paratroopers is less understandable. The rationale was that since intelligence reported a full battalion of Viet Cong, a full battalion of ARVN was needed. The helicopters available, however, could deliver only half of a battalion in the first wave. Thus, an air drop seemed to be indicated.

These arguments seem reasonable, but they are inappropriate to counterguerrilla warfare. In counterguerrilla warfare it is essential to distinguish between hard-core guerrillas and ordinary villagers, even though the latter may be sympathetic to the guerrillas. Contact must be made with the enemy before the air strike, not after, and surprise is all-important since guerrillas do not seek to hold ground but to influence and control the minds and hearts of the people.

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A preliminary air strike is therefore inadmissible in counterguerrilla operations. In addition, paratroopers are useful not as the attacking but only as the reinforcing element—after contact is made by patrols or other means, e.g., helicopters. It takes three to five minutes for a paratroop unit to reach the ground, and three to five minutes is time enough for a guerrilla unit to escape to the jungle.

In general, the first contact must be made by units that operate in the same way as the guerrillas themselves—living for lone periods in the jungle, patrolling, ambushing, moving, and never sleeping two nights in the same place.

The one exception to this rule is a force moved by helicopter. Flying three to five feet off the ground along roadways and canals, a helicopter discharges its troops only 12 seconds after the enemy sees and identifies it. The Binh Hoa operation might well have utilized helicopters. The helicopters available could have transported only half a battalion in the first wave. But these could have made contact with the enemy with no warning whatsoever.

Once contact was made, the Jungle Jim unit could have been called in with effect—against a known and precisely located enemy. The paratroopers, orbiting at a higher altitude, could then have been introduced either to reinforce the helicopter unit already engaged or to block the routes of Viet Cong retreat.

If the intelligence was faulty, no harm would have been done with such tactics and no villagers would have been killed. If the intelligence had been correct, however, these tactics would have prevented a warning to the Viet Cong. Their retreat would have been slowed up by the fire of the hoops brought in by helicopter, impeded by the strikes of the Jungle Jim unit, and blocked by the action of the paratroopers.

V. The Plan3

1. General Concept.

The following plan consists of three phases, each of which involves a combination of military, political, civic action, economic, and social measures.

This plan is designed to eliminate the Viet Cong from successive areas through a progression of steps, and to provide the villages with a security framework and a solid socio-political base to ensure that this elimination is permanent.

The people of South Vietnam are the target, and the vast majority of the people live in the Mekong River delta and along the coasts (see Map 4). The first priority should therefore be the delta area and, for obvious international political reasons, the area around Hue, just south of the Demarcation Line.

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Phase I provides the security framework and socio-political base for these two first-priority areas; Phase II covers the other areas of heavy population density; and Phase III is designed to provide permanent protection at the borders and to eliminate the remaining Viet Cong in the mountains and jungles of the less populated regions.

2. Phase I.

Zones of strategic villages will be established simultaneously in the two first-priority areas, beginning with provinces least heavily penetrated by the Viet Cong. As each zone is completed, work will begin on additional zones, fanning outwards until the entire province is covered, and eventually, at the end of Phase I, the whole of the two first-priority areas.

Take, for example, the province of Binh Tuong (see Map 5). Let us assume for purposes of illustration that the white area east of zones I and II is virtually free of Viet Cong, that zone I is moderately penetrated, and that zone II is virtually free but subject to incursions by Viet Cong irregulars from the south. In the white area, strategic villages would not be necessary. Zone I would need strategic villages to protect its population from local Viet Cong, and zone II would need them to protect its population from incursions from the heavily penetrated area of the south. After zones I and II have been secured, the teams would move on to zone III.

At the same time as these zones of strategic villages are being constructed work would begin on a belt of defended villages in zone IV along the edge of the population density line to serve as a cordon sanitaire.

The regular forces of the South Vietnamese army would at the same time wage a sustained campaign of patrolling and appropriately conceived offensives against the regular Viet Cong forces with whatever troops it has available after discharging the essential tasks of defending vital installations and protecting the teams constructing strategic villages. Keeping the regular Viet Cong off balance is vital, since the Communists will make every effort to prevent the construction of strategic village zones.


Strategic Villages.

The creation of strategic villages in relatively secure areas involves the regroupment of village hamlets into one compact, easily defended area. The difficulties of this regroupment will vary with the village, depending on its size, population, and distribution of its hamlets.

Each strategic village will be protected by a ditch and a fence of barbed wire. It will include one or more observation towers, guard posts, and a defense post for central storage of arms, as shown in the attached diagram (see Sketch). The area immediately around the village [Page 84]will be cleared for fields of fire and the area approaching the clearing, including the ditch, will be strewn with booby-traps (spikes, pits, explosives, etc.) and other personnel obstacles. In these tasks, the help of United States Army sergeants and lieutenants as advisors will be vital.

Each strategic village will have field telephones and an alarm system connecting the watch towers and guard posts with the defense posts, as well as radio facilities enabling it to maintain direct communication with the government administrative and the military-security command structure at the district level, and ultimately up to the central government complex in Saigon. Here, too, the help of American advisors will be necessary.

Each strategic village will be defended by a Self Defense Corps unit of 75 to 150 men, i.e., 1 squad per hamlet and 1 platoon per village. Each Self Defense Corps unit will be armed with carbines, 45 caliber grease guns and shotguns, and its arms and ammunition will be centrally located and guarded.

The primary missions of the Self Defense Corps unit are to defend the strategic village from attack and to conduct daylight patrols outside the immediate vicinity of the strategic village.

The areas between strategic villages will be covered by the Civil Guard. The Civil Guard will conduct night patrols between the strategic villages’ lay ambushes, assist in guarding strategic government installations, maintain road check points, and constitute a mobile reserve, i.e., to relieve a strategic village when under attack or assist the Army in larger operations against the Viet Cong. Here, too, the help of American sergeants and lieutenants is vital.

The Civil Guard and the Self Defense Corps (along with the National Surete and the Municipal Police, the regular police services in urban areas) will also be responsible for enforcing curfews, checking identity cards, and ferreting out hard-core Communists and provide intelligence on the Viet Cong.

In this respect, it cannot be stressed too strongly that the key to effective intelligence is not penetration of the Viet Cong apparatus (it would be too difficult and take too long to achieve this capability) but rather the mere fact of providing security to the villager from Viet Cong intimidation and terror. This security for him and his family will motivate the villagers to pass on information on the Viet Cong to government officials. The US Central Intelligence Agency should give high priority to the installation of road watchers as utilized in Laos. This is not to say that there is no room for clandestine intelligence operations. however.


Defended Villages.

The creation of defended villages will follow essentially the pattern for strategic villages, i.e., regroupment of hamlets, construction of defenses, alarm systems, communications, etc.

Defended villages, however, would be created along the periphery of Viet Cong concentration areas in such a fashion to form a belt of defended villages along a population density line covering roughly one-half of the Mekong River delta area and then swinging eastward toward the coast and running north along the coast to just south of Tourane, and then westward to the Lao frontier.

Another major difference between the strategic and the defended village is that the latter is defended both by the Self Defense Corps and the Civil Guard units and initially, at least, by Army units.

The defended village belt thus constitutes the forward security line against further Viet Cong expansion. The strategic villages constitute rear echelon sectors where mopping up and consolidation take place. The number of both the defended and the strategic villages would be expanded progressively to squeeze and isolate the Viet Cong and increase secured areas.

Once zones of strategic villages with the Civil Guard operating in the intermediate areas are established, the Viet Cong will be effectively cut off from the sources of both supplies and recruits. If a Viet Cong unit ventures into such a zone, it will find itself in what is, in fact, a meat grinder.

Sooner or later, the intruding Viet Cong unit will run into a Civil Guard ambush or patrol. This, in turn, will be followed by reinforcements by other Civil Guard and even regular Army units, called in by radio and transported by helicopter, and by ambushes on trails and roads leading to the area of contact. In addition, the controls on the movements of people and supplies will force an intruding Viet Cong unit to attack strategic villages to obtain food. And such an attack will, in turn, bring still more reinforcements and ambushes on the routes of escape. The Viet Cong, in sum, will be forced to attack and the advantage of ambush will pass from the Communists to the government.


Role of the Army.

In carrying out its primary mission of keeping the regular Viet Cong forces off balance, it is essential that the Army adopt the strategy and tactics used by the Viet Cong, exploiting at the same time the Armyʼs advantages of numerical superiority, logistics, and air power.

Mobility, surprise, and small unit operations are basic. The deployment of forces, however secure and well coordinated, along conventional warfare lines and the use of artillery or aerial bombardment for softening up the enemy only give advance warning of an operation, [Page 86]permit the Viet Cong to escape, and inevitably result in the death of uncommitted or wavering civilians whose support is essential for the Viet Congʼs ultimate defeat. Artillery or aerial bombardment, therefore, should be introduced only after actual ground contact with Viet Cong forces has been made.

The Army should also be utilized to reduce infiltration across the frontier. Ranger companies are best equipped to execute this mission. They should be committed to specified zones along the frontier area (see Map 4), particularly in the highlands along the Lao border, for periods of three to four months, at least. They should be highly mobile, never sleeping twice in the same place, and patrolling and ambushing at will. Here, again, US Army advisors are needed to assist and to set an example.

Ranger companies contacting large Viet Cong units would be supported by air drops and paratroop reinforcement.

To sum up, the role of the Army in Phase I is as follows:

  • To continue to defend vital installations, province capitals, and other strategic points until relieved by the creation of local zones of strategic villages.
  • To provide protection for the teams constructing strategic villages m the more dangerous areas.
  • To use the remaining forces offensively against the regular Viet Cong units to keep them off balance.
  • To operate themselves as guerrillas along the Viet Cong infiltration routes.


Civic Action Teams.

The single most important element in eliminating the Viet Cong is the so-called Civic Action Team. These teams were apparently originated on the initiative of the South Vietnamese. Each team is made up of 17-18 persons with the following specialties:

  • 3 public administration
  • 1 youth activities
  • 2-3 police training
  • 1 public information
  • 1 agricultural credit
  • 1 medical
  • 1 education
  • 1 intelligence
  • 1 Civil Guard liaison
  • 5 Self Defense Corps training

In this plan the task of the civic action teams is to assist locals in the construction of strategic villages and to build the essenha1 socio-political base.

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The public administration members will set up village government and tie it into the district and national levels assuring the flow of information on village needs and problems upward and the flow of government services downward.

President Diem has himself organized a youth movement of 300,000 members. The youth activities man on the civic action team would relate the youth in the village to the national government through this organization and use its members as recruits for the Self Defense Corps and other necessary tasks.

The 2-3 police members of the team perform the essential task of issuing identity cards, instituting controls on the movements of supplies, food and people, and so filtering out the hard-core Communists within the local population.

The public information member of the team has the task of explaining the need for relocating hamlets, the construction of strategic villages, as well as bringing political support to the national government.

The agricultural credit member of the team will assist in solving the problems connected with the relocation of hamlets as well as agricultural credit programs.

The medical technician will look to health and sanitation problems.

The educational specialist will deal with and assist in the reconstruction of schools and school programs.

The intelligence specialist will serve as liaison for channeling information obtained from the villages to district, province, and national levels.

The Civil Guard liaison official will man the radio used for calling forth support of nearby Civil Guard units in case of attack.

The Self Defense Corps trainers will recruit and train Self Defense Corps personnel in the village.

There are now only some 30-40 civic action teams operating throughout South Vietnam. Two hundred are needed. In addition, each team should also include a United States Army sergeant or lieutenant to help in Self Defense Corps training and if possible an American civilian with public administration or police training.

3. Phase II.

In Phase II the same methods would be used to extend the zones of strategic villages to cover the remaining densely populated areas.

Secondly, Phase II will also include a stepped-up program of economic and social development. These measures should be designed to achieve maximum effect at the village level and to build up the progress made by the Civic Action teams during Phase I.

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Finally, during Phase II increased attention would be given to the security of the tribesmen in the Montagnard highlands (where it is difficult to apply the strategic village concept because villages are too far apart). For example, rice would be purchased and stored at protected sites and then sold once a week at about half the price to the tribal peoples on a closely controlled ration basis to deny it to the Viet Cong.

4. Phase III.

Suitably hardy, loyal and tough villagers will be resettled in permanently defended, strategic villages along the Cambodian and Laotian borders. (The cost here is higher, since it requires clearing new lands and possibly permanent subsidies in the form of wages for duty by adult males as border guards.)

Continuing its offensive, the regular army will pursue and destroy the remnants of the Viet Cong hiding in the under-populated mountains and jungles.

Special economic, social, and political measures will be undertaken to win and hold the loyalty of the Montagnards.

VI. Estimated Additional Personnel and Matériel Required

1. Civic Action Teams

Now: 30-40
This Plan: 200 (based on the strategic village plan)
Needed: South Vietnamese—1,200 additional personnel
United States Army—250 sergeants/lieutenants (includes 50 trainee/administrative personnel)
United States Civilian—150 police/public administrative personnel
Malayan-British—100 police/public administrative personnel
Training: At several central locations; now largely South Vietnam action and initiative; United States help needed.

2. Civil Guard (full-time amateurs)

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Now: 67,000 personnel
Projected: 72,000 personnel
This plan: 130,000 personnel (130 men per company; one company needed for each set of two villages in threatened zone, i.e., 1,000 companies)
Needed: South Vietnamese—58,000 additional personnel United States Army sergeants and lieutenants—400 personnel (Administrative support exists; number of United States personnel needed is keyed to Civic Action plan)
Training: At no higher than province and preferably at district level (now done at 5 centrally located training centers); and by 12 mobile Training Teams.

3. Self Defense Corps (part-time amateurs)

Now: 56,500 personnel
Proposed: 60,000 personnel
This Plan: 150,000 personnel
(Estimate based on 2,000 threatened villages; 75 men per village, i.e., 1 squad per hamlet and one platoon per village)
South Vietnamese required—100,000 personnel, part-time only United States required—200 sergeants/lieutenants (Civic Action teams take care of most strategic villages; the 200 United States personnel are for defended villages)
Training: Now in various centers; planned training course is 6 weeks.
This Plan: In villages proper; two weeks training and several weeks of training—on-the-job.

4. Ranger Companies (For jungle work on infiltration routes)

Now: 75 companies
Projected: 86 companies
This Plan: Same
South Vietnam: No additional personnel
United States required: approximately 150 additional personnel (some companies already have United States personnel attached).

5. a. Total South Vietnamese personnel required

Full-time: 59,000
Part-time: 100,000 Self Defense Corps
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b. Total United States personnel required

Military 1,000
Civilian 150

c. Malayans/British Personnel required—100

6. Total Equipment required

3,000—radios, village and distant
10,000—field telephones
150,000—carbines, grease guns, and shotguns
15,000—60 mm mortars
barbed wire, roofing materials, identity cards, etc.
1—additional Helicopter Company
12—4-place Helicopters
light armed boats light armored car (British manufacture)
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Reports and Memos, 1/62-2/62. Secret. Attached to the source text were a cover sheet, indicating that the original had gone to General Taylor; a transmittal memorandum from Hilsman to Taylor, in his capacity as chairman of the Special Group (CI), stating that the paper had been prepared as requested by Taylor and the President; and a table of contents. The table of contents indicates that maps, not found attached to the source text, were included with the original. At the Presidentʼs behest Hilsman attended the Secretary of Defenseʼs Conference at Honolulu on January 15, then went on to Saigon with Nolting to begin an inspection tour of South Vietnam. This report was based on that tour. Hilsman spent the latter half of January in Vietnam. Regarding the background of his visit, see Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 427.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 210.
  3. The basic approach followed in this plan was developed by Mr. R.G.K. Thompson, who played a major role in directing counter-insurgency operations in Malaya and who is now a Special Advisor attached to the British Embassy in Saigon. [Footnote in the source text.]