66. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

997. Reference: (A) Saigon 983 to Dept. (B) Aidto circ x 189.2 Believe civilian civic action at least as important as military civic action in fight against Viet Cong. Present AID program for Viet-Nam has major element of civilian civic action, but Joint Communiqué3 as developed at TFSaigon initiative is clearest present statement of GVN objectives in civilian civic action field, i.e. impact activities by GVN to win prompt peasant support. Would like soonest, therefore, report from Task Force Saigon on status implementation Joint Communiqué together with TFʼs specific suggestions for further such activities, including especially activities by which civilian civic action can support military plans for cleaning out and securing provinces.

Feeling here is that civilian civic action must give direct benefits to peasant population without demanding much effort or resources from them as they already soured and suspicious as result corvee-type civic action projects. Also believe it important carry out work wherever possible by means teams which will live in villages for some period of time.

Assume Ministry Civic Action logical place to mount such a program, in cooperation with USOM. Believe you may wish consider ways strengthening Civic Action Ministry, including employment of US advisors within Ministry. Feeling here is that effective civic action cannot be combined, at least now, with intelligence or propaganda effort.4

Understand Hieu is capable man who works well with Americans. Can he be approached directly for discussion civic action methods and suggestions how US aid could beef up civilian civic action? Understand Vietnamese Civic Action Teams have been operating on shoe string basis under General Cao with some success since August in area from Tay Ninh east to coast. Can they be supported?

Also suggest future provincial survey teams may wish make particular effort study this problem.

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Discussion contained Ref B refers to use of local military forces engaged in civic action projects. Distinction should be made between military and civilian effort in civic action particularly in regard to funding. Ref B should provide CT with sufficient information to proceed in developing specific projects for FY 1962-63 for military forces to implement an expanded program for civic action for Washington consideration. Re Ref A do not contemplate sending Joint State-AID-Defense civic action team to Saigon at this time. Team will be available to assist in program development at later time if CT determines such assistance useful. While we prepared accept your judgment that pilot civic action team not necessary now, team will be available in future to assist in FY 1963 program development and implementation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/1-2962. Secret. Drafted by Heavner, cleared with Wood and with B/FAC, FE, and AID, and approved by Cottrell. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. See Document 38; and footnote 6, Document 64.
  3. See Document 4.
  4. This sentence was corrected by telegram 1003 to Saigon, February 19, to read: “Washington would not disapprove use propaganda early stages civic action provided it informational only.” (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/2-1962)