51. Draft Paper by the Head of the British Advisory Mission in Vietnam (Thompson)1

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

Policy Directive No. …2

Delta Plan

The aim of this Policy Directive is to outline the Plan and the measures to be taken for the clearance of the Vietcong from the whole Delta area Vung Chien Thust 3).

Priority Areas

2. It will not be possible to carry out the full Plan and all the measures proposed in the whole area simultaneously. Where it is necessary to accord priorities, particularly with regard to the allocation of equipment or forces, the first priority area will be as follows (see map attached):3

Minh Long, Vinh Rinh, Kien Hoa, Dinh Tuong (excluding the area north of the road Ben Tranh-Cai Lai to the ferry at My Thuan), Long An (excluding the area west of Thu Thuc thence north along the Vaico river), Gia Dinh Province, Southern tip of Tay Ninh Province, Rinh [Page 103]Duong Province south of Ben Gat, southem tip of Phuoc Thanh Province, Bien Hoa (excluding the area east of the Vung Tau road), southem tip of Phuoc Tuy Province.

Further priorities will be laid down as the Plan progresses.

Aims

3. The aims of the Plan are:

(a)
to control, protect and win the population with particular emphasis on the rural areas;
(b)
to obtain the intelligence necessary to break the Vietcong organisation within the population;
(c)
to isolate the armed Vietcong from the population and then to eliminate them;
(d)
to establish and maintain “white” dress which have been cleared of Vietcong.

General Concept

4. This is a battle for the control of the villages and the protection of the population. If security and Government control are restored, then, with the assistance of the people themselves, the elimination of the Vietcong will automatically follow. The Vietcong cannot exist unless they can intimidate and gain the support of elements in the population. They depend on these elements for supplies, food, intelligence and recruits. This is a continual traffic and represents the weakest link in the Vietcong organisation. In order to isolate the armed units of the Vietcong from the population it will be necessary to break this link and to eliminate. Vietcong supporters within the population. In order to achieve this it is essential to establish a solid security framework in the populated areas.

Security Framework

5. The foundation of the security framework will be strategic hamlets and defended hamlets:

(a)
the conception of strategic hamlets is well understood and many have already been established. This policy will be extended as rapidly as possible in all areas where strategic hamlets are sufficient to provide effective protection for the population.
(b)
In all areas where villages and hamlets have been under Vietcong control or which are continually threatened by major Vietcong units, particularly on the perimeter of the populated areas (i.e. along the Cambodian frontier and on the fringes of swamp areas which have been lone established communist bases), houses wiI1 be regrouped and defended hamlets will be established.

6. It will be essential to establish the frame work solidly and in depth so that strategic and defended hamlets are mutually supporting. There must be no gaps. Under no circumstances will strategic and [Page 104]defended hamlets be established in isolated groups unless such groups can be rapidly linked together by the establishment of further such hamlets in between. It will normally be desirable to establish strategic hamlets in the more secure areas of each province expanding steadily outwards to the less secure areas where defended hamlets may be required. Chefs de Province will also pay particular attention to the need to coordinate the establishment of the framework with neighbouring provinces in order to ensure that there are no loopholes along provincial boundaries.

Defence of the Framework

7. The framework will depend for close defence mainly on the Self-Defence Corps supported by the Republican youth as part-time members of the Self-Defence Corps. Immediate dose support in a mobile role will be provided by the Civil Guard. Where defended hamlets are established in areas which have been heavily penetrated by the Vietcong it may be necessary to employ Civil Guard in their close defence until such time as reliable Self-Defence Corps units can be called. During the establishment of the framework it will be the task of the Army to keep the regular units of the Vietcong harassed and off balance so that the security framework can be consolidated. The efforts of both the intelligence organisation and of the information services will be directed in support of the Plan

Control Measures

8. In order to establish control over the population and to assist in cutting the supply line to the armed units of the Vietcong, the following control measures will be introduced:

(a)
Priority will be given to the issue of new plastic identity cards to the whole population in the Delta area. The inhabitants of each house will be recorded and a photograph of the complete household, together with identity card numbers, will be placed inside the house, and duplicate photographs will be available at district and province headquarters.
(b)
Permanent check points will be established at selected static posts, on all roads and waterways. There will also be surprise checks at other points.
(c)
Curfews will be introduced on certain roads and waterways and in areas surrounding defended hamlets, and any such other areas as may be required, from 7.00 p.m. until 6.00 a.m. The necessary authority will be given for the security forces to shoot on sight at anyone breaking the curfew.
(d)
In certain areas of jungle, mangrove swamps and marshland, prohibited areas will be declared and the population will be totally excluded until further notice and all security forces will be given complete freedom to shoot on sight in such areas.
(e)
In certain areas, particularly on the perimeter of the populated areas, measures will be introduced to control the movement of rice and other supplies. Where necessary food convoys on certain roads and waterways will be introduced. In certain villages and hamlets rice stocks will be purchased and removed from the area immediately after harvesting and a rice ration will be issued to the inhabitants.

Protection

9. As already stated under the General Concept in paragraph 4, the protection of the population will be based on strategic and defended hamlets with the Self-Defence Corps (now being rapidly expanded, re-equipped and trained) providing the close defence, supported by the Republican Youth, and with the Civil Guard providing mobile support. The Army will at all times be prepared to rescue any post which is under attack by the Vietcong.

Winning the Population

10. There are three main requirements:

(a)
Great attention will be paid at all times to the behaviour of all government personnel both civil and military in their dealings with the population. Under no circumstances wiI1 punitive measures be taken against any village or hamlet without the prior approval of the National Security Council. Great care will also be exercised when ground attack aircraft or artillery are used in populated areas to ensure that innocent persons are not wounded or killed.
(b)
The population should be kept well informed with regard to all control measures and of their purpose. These measures will be relaxed when an area is cleared of Vietcong and declared “white”. Where hamlets have to be regrouped the population should be given every assistance and should be kept well informed of the advantages which will follow from such regrouping.
(c)
As the framework is established and an area is cleared of communists, social and economic improvements will immediately be undertaken.

Civil Authorities

11. The main tasks of the Civil Authorities will be:

(a)
the establishment of strategic and defended hamlets;
(b)
the administrative organisation of the villages;
(c)
the introduction of control measures;
(d)
the provision of social and economic improvements with emphasis on agricultural improvements, health measures, education and minor public works;
(e)
publicity for all government measures and propaganda directed at both the population and the terrorists.

Self-Defence Corps

12. The main tasks of the Self-Defence Corps will be: [Page 106]

(a)
close defence of strategic and defended hamlets;
(b)
active patrolling in the immediate neighbourhood of strategic and defended hamlets;
(c)
collection of intelligence, particularly on communist supporters within the populated areas, and on communist supply lines;
(d)
elimination of armed communist cadres within the population and arrest of communist supporters;
(e)
distribution of information and propaganda leaflets.

13. The training and equipment of the Self-Defence Corps will proceed as rapidly as possible and which will be established in all strategic and defended hamlets. Great care, however, will be taken to ensure that such units can be adequately and rapidly supported by Civil Guard units in the event of a Vietcong attack developing and if necessary by the Army, which will be responsible for dealing with any large Vietcong concentration which may develop against Self-Defence Corps units in such hamlets.

Civil Guard

14. The main tasks of the Civil Guard will be:

(a)
to provide mobile and offensive patrols outside strategic and defended hamlets, particularly on the perimeter of populated areas, including patrols on inland waterways;
(b)
to rescue Self-Defence Corps posts when attacked;
(c)
to provide the close defence of defended hamlets where the Self-Defence Corps is either inadequate or not yet raised;
(d)
to enforce the control measures in paragraph 8.

15. The Civil Guard will be organised to provide for the permanent defence of the security framework within each province. The battalion headquarters will become the provincial headquarters of the Civil Guard, and a company headquarters will be established as the district headquarters of the Civil Guard. Additional companies will be allocated to each province as required for operations. As the security situation improves, these additional companies will be transferred elsewhere. A company headquarters will; however, always remain at district level, though the number of men in that company may be reduced. The total strength, therefore, of the Civil Guard in each province will vary considerably, but the headquarters framework at province and district level will always remain. The retraining of the Civil Guard companies will continue as rapidly as possible, and river patrol units will be trained and established

[Page 107]

Military Units (Including Rangers)

16. The initial aim of military units will be to keep the main Vietcong forces off balance and harassed while the framework of strategic and defended hamlets is being established and consolidated. Their main tasks will therefore be:

(a)
active patrolling and engagement of Vietcong units outside the populated areas;
(b)
prevention, by planned operations, of Vietcong concentration;
(c)
support of hamlets in bad areas and rescue of them if attacked;
(d)
enforcement of control measures, especially curfews and prohibited areas.

17. As the framework is established, military units will gradually be relieved of all static duties (other than defence of their own establishments) and, where any static duties remain, a mobile reserve will always be available. Ranger companies will be withdrawn from the populated areas as soon as they can be replaced (if required) by retrained Civil Guard companies. Those that remain in the Delta area will be retrained for deep-jungle operations in Tactical Zone 31.

Air Force

18. The main tasks of the Air Force will be:

(a)
to increase the mobility of the military and Civil Guard units in areas where other communications are lacking, particularly for offensive operations;
(b)
to provide reconnaissance and communications;
(c)
to attack targets of opportunity;
(d)
to evacuate all wounded (including civilians) from isolated areas;
(e)
to drop information and propaganda leaflets.

Navy

19. The tasks of the Navy will be:

(a)
to prevent entry into the Delta area of Vietcong supplies, reinforcements, agents and weapons by sea;
(b)
to prevent all Vietcong movement by water along the coasts and in the river estuaries in close liaison with the Civil Guard river patrol units;
(c)
to transport troops and supplies rapidly in the coastal areas;
(d)
to support operations in the coastal areas and in the major channels of the Mekong.

Important Points

20. In establishing the framework great attention will be paid to the following points:

(a)
The complete co-ordination of all civil and military action;
(b)
A clear chain of command
(c)
The direction and co-ordination of the intelligence effort, particularly at District level;
(d)
The direction and co-ordination of the information services and pay-war units and all information and propaganda directed at both the population and the Vietcong;
(e)
The establishment of wireless communications down to the village level and to defended hamlets and other key posts;
(f)
The domination of inland waterways to deny their use to the Vietcon2;
(g)
The exploitation of the Governmentʼs superior means of communication to achieve mobility, flexibility and economy of force;
(h)
The relief of the Army from static defence duties;
(i)
The tactical siting of Self-Defence Corps and Civil Guard posts to achieve several objects simultaneously e.g. to defend a hamlet and a bride and to provide check points on a road or river;
(j)
The integration of all establishments, installations and training centres of a military nature within the framework
(k)
The protection of major food convoys by both road and water;
(l)
Supporting action by the Republican Youth Corps and Civic Action teams at the village and hamlet level;
(m)
Prompt medical attention for all persons (including civilians) wounded by Vietcong action
(n)
Prompt payment of compensation (where authorised) for damage to property or loss of life;
(o)
All matters affecting the morale both of the population and Government forces.

Communist Reaction

21. The communists will not be slow to react to the establishment of the framework and will make a determined and violent effort to prevent it being established and to break it. This requires that there should be careful judgement and timing in each Province in the establishment of the framework and that all forces should be ready to counter communist attempts either to break it or to encourage the population to resist certain of the measures. As the framework is consolidated, the communists will be forced to attack it and, at this stage, the Army particularly must be alert to deal with communist concentrations and attacks on defended hamlets.

Responsibility

22. The Secretary of State at the Presidency and Assistant for Defence will be responsible to the National Security Council for the execution of the Plan and will issue such instructions as are necessary for implementing it. These instructions will cover:

(a)
the points in paragraph 20;
(b)
the establishment of strategic and defended hamlets;
(c)
control measures;
(d)
such other matters as may be necessary.

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Approval4

23. This plan approved by His Excellency the President and the National Security Council on and will come into force on.

Signed:
Secretary of State at the Presidency
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Vietnam, 1/62-2/62. Secret. Sent to Hilsman under an undated memorandum for J.B. Denson of the British Embassy in Washington. At the top of Densonʼs transmittal memorandum is written in pencil: “For 6 p.m. appt 2/7/62.” No record of a meeting between Hilsman and anybody at that time has been found.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.
  3. The map is not reproduced.
  4. In telegram 1073 to Saigon, March 7, the Department of State asked whether the Task Force in Vietnam agreed with the Delta Plan. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/2-2462) In telegram 1159 from Saigon, March 9, Trueheart replied that all agencies represented on the Task Force did agree with the Plan. (Ibid., 751K.5/3-962)