98. Paper Prepared for the Special Group (Counterinsurgency)1


  • Special Group Agenda Item 3d2

3d. Planning for immediate civilian and military civic action and subsequent detailed civic action programs which will be required to support the province pacification strategy.

I. Status

Enclosure number one is a review of the status of civic action programs in Vietnam. The salient facts to be considered are the following:

Neither US nor GVN planning for civic action in Vietnam can proceed on a sound basis until the overall strategy for the campaign in Vietnam is developed and agreed. The civic action effort must be planned to support the time-phased geographic plan for clearing and holding the country-side. The general concept of a campaign plan is emerging, but the plan has not.
The Vietnamese are currently conducting several unsystematic civic action activities, varying by area and means and not guided by a strategic plan. Their primary source of advice and guidance in the civic action field does not appear to be our Country Team.
Country Team recognition of the need for civic action is recent. Civic action has not been persistently pressed on the GVN. What has been accomplished appears to be mainly on GVN initiative.
A clear concept on the U.S. side of the manner in which to unite the divided responsibilities of U.S. agencies in a successful field program in Vietnam has not been demonstrated. A joint State-AID-Defense message of 12 Feb 623 provides very broad guidance calling for MAP funding of requirements to provide indigenous military forces for which MAP is responsible, with increased capability to take on civic action and calling for AID funding of project costs additional to those funded by local governments and of requirements to enhance the civic action capability of the paramilitary forces for which AID is responsible. This broad guidance, generally confirming previous understanding, does not solve the problem of how to develop and administer one integrated program, agreed to by the GVN, in Vietnam.

II. Required Actions by the Country Team

Each of the required actions listed below presumes that our Country Team will have completely determined what the GVN is doing in the civic action field and will, through early consideration of GVN views and local circumstances and united persuasion that the U.S. has a sound program to offer in this field, achieve agreement with the GVN as to requirements, methods, and programs to be implemented.

Attention to the necessity for a time-phased, geographically based strategy and campaign plan for all of Vietnam that envisions clearing and consolidating areas contiguous to the starting area.
Development of one integrated comprehensive civic action program phased to support the strategy of the campaign plan. This must be a program of specifics; the generally accepted broad principles thus far announced in various programs do not provide an adequate basis for action in the current stage.
Division of tasks between the U.S. agencies only on the basis of their capability and willingness to perform the function in the current circumstances in Vietnam.
Assignment of resources to U.S. agencies on the basis of the division of tasks rather than such a basis as MAP support or precedent.
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Enclosure 14


I. Status

a. U.S. Military Civic Action Efforts

On 12 July 1961, a Department of Army Civil Action Mobile Training Team (CAMTT) arrived in SVN. Its dispatch was one of the approved “Gilpatric Task Force” recommendations.5 From 12 July to 12 December, the CAMTT conducted surveys of civic action needs, held seminars in Saigon and in each military region for top military and civilian officials, organized a group of ARVN officers to conduct a civic action program, provided the P.O.I. for individual training, and submitted to CHMAAG a complete Civil Affairs/Civic Action Program for approval.6

On 30 January 1962, this program was submitted to CINCPAC. CINCPAC approved the program 7 February 62. It now awaits adoption by the GVN. Only after query from the JCS7 did the Country Team during February present to the GVN the proposals for civic action drawn up by the DA CAMTT during 1961.

b. U.S. Civilian Civic Action Efforts

As reported under Agenda Item 3a, a proposed civilian rural medical plan was proposed to Ambassador Nolting by State/AID message dated 26 Feb 62.8 The basic feature of the plan would be mobile civilian medical teams performing a “sick call” operation in villages and available for emergency call. Foreign doctors would replace in the cities the VN doctors moved out to rural areas under this plan. Field comments have not been received.

On 16 Feb 62 State suggested to Ambassador Nolting that he consider means to strengthen the GVN Civic Action Ministry, including employment of U.S. advisors within the Ministry, and requested a report from T.F. Saigon on the status of civilian civic action and specific suggestions for expansion of the program, including especially activities by which civilian civic action can support military plans for cleaning out and securing provinces.9 These are each very [Page 203]recent indications of interest in civilian civic action; results—or even clear specific plans—have not been realized.

c. NV Civic Action



The Government of Viet Nam (GVN) has established a number of organizations and carries out a variety of programs which are designed either to materially aid the people of Viet Nam or to convince them of the desirability of supporting the present regime. The Information Service, the National Revolutionary Movement (NRM), the Republican Youth Organization (RYO), the Ministry of Health, and the Vietnamese Solidarity Movements are examples of such organizations. Frequently it has occurred that the programs of these organizations combine both material and moral help for the people with a propaganda program, and the lines between the GVN purpose of “help” and the regimeʼs purpose of “sell” are difficult to differentiate.


Organization and Cadres

In at least part of the provinces a provincial-level CA organization exists. Below the provincial headquarters there is often, but not always, a chief cadre for each district who may have a number of cadres under him, depending upon the size of the population. These cadres, through the chief cadre, usually coordinate their activities closely with the district chief although the latter in most cases exercises no direct authority over the CA program. Generally the number of cadres is not fixed in a district and may vary from time to time according to the schedule of the CA program. One cadre, however, may be assigned to cover two to four villages on a more or less permanent basis.

CA cadres often participate in “teams” composed of Information Service cadres, Surete representatives, RYO cadres, and Self Defense Corps members. The teams move about in a district, spending perhaps two or three weeks in a village organizing defenses, explaining GVN policy lines, and exhorting the population to carry out self-help projects.

The CA cadres (25-35) are young, aggressive, and dedicated. They are paid 2,800 piastres a month (the provincial CA chief receives 5,500 piastres), a fair wage were it not for their added expenses accruing from their responsibilities of having to live away from home virtually all of the time.

One district chief stated the CA cadres are generally educated through the third or fourth year of high school. In addition, they received two months of training with the Ministry.


Civic Action Activities

Civic Action activities can be grouped into two categories1) propaganda and 2) organization of projects generally relating to either defense or community welfare. CA cadres frequently organize “study courses” which are used to “educate” the people about GVN programs and policies and to convince them of the advantages of supporting the present regime. CA objectives in poorer areas are, of necessity, changed from encouragement and organization of community projects to simple propaganda, as the people of such areas are too poor to devote much if any time or money to projects not immediately essential to the providing of the daily necessities of life.

The principal job of CA, however, is to aid villagers in the organization and execution of projects designed to benefit the community as a whole. Varying according to the needs and capabilities of the village, such projects include road repair, dam building, canal excavation, construction of tactical defenses, crop protection, and establishment of health programs. They may investigate any “suspicious elements” in a village for VC activities or connections, and investigate the background of candidates for the village council or any charges of abuse of power leveled against a member of a council. In an emergency involving the safety of the village or the crops, CA cadres may concentrate their efforts on a given area. However, CA itself has no funds to invest in projects and it is always necessary for the villagers to foot the bill themselves on any costs of a project. CA cadres can only explain the utility of the project to the villagers and help them organize the effort. Another activity sometimes engaged in is to coordinate with SDC and other defense groups in conducting security patrols. CA cadres also frequently urge the people to pay their taxes.

These activities and programs have a basic limitation in that they do not have funds to assist with the developments that they urge. They are essentially “do-it-yourself” advisors. Their programs call for diversion of local effort and resources to programs not developed at local initiative. This would be more acceptable if some funds were available to the teams to help with local projects. There is recent information that a special responsibility for civic action has been assigned to … . The portion of the total program which he supervises and the resources available to him are not yet clearly reported. He is at least responsible for the Binh Duong and Bien Hoa areas. However, fragmentary reports indicate some activity in these areas and elsewhere. For example, in January 62 President Diem ordered a crash civic action program for the newly formed province of Chuong Thieu. By the end of January an initial complement of 100 civic action personnel, of whom 70 had been newly trained and armed with carbines and LSMGʼs, were organized into ten teams of ten men each. To meet the [Page 205]estimated 250 additional team members required for this province, 150 were to be assigned from the class of 200 graduating from their training program at Danang in late February.


Relation to the Overall Strategy

Future GVN civic action programs will certainly be geared to the strategic hamlet concept and the overall strategy for clearing and holding areas. This, too, is not yet completely developed. No time-phased priority of clearing the provinces has been announced. However, the scheme for clearing and holding individual provinces appears to be generally understood as depending on a three-phase operation (I—preparatory, II—military, and III—civic action and rehabilitation) to establish strategic hamlets. Civic action plans and requirements will consequently be tied to the strategic plan finally agreed.

The costs of this scheme may run high. For example, the relocation costs for only 6,500 people being moved in Binh Duong to five new sites is estimated at $75,000.

President Diem only recently (3 Feb) signed the decree establishing an Inter-Ministry Committee for Strategic Hamlets.10 The mission of this body is to develop a national plan for securing the villages. However, in the meantime, the work is proceeding. There are 16,000 hamlets and 2,500 villages in Vietnam. 784 strategic hamlets have already been constructed and 453 are under construction. It is reported that 6,066 are to be completed in 1962.

The intent of the GVN as to an overall strategy is also somewhat clouded by recent actions with regard to the recommendations of British Advisor, Mr. R.G.K. Thompson. Mr. Thompson has submitted to the GVN a draft directive for the pacification of the Delta area, which outlines in the form of a National Security Council Directive the concepts to which he proposes.11 [sic] He has also prepared three draft policy instructions for implementation of the directive. One concerns the general concept, another the coordination and command of the operation, and another specific control measures to break the links between the VC and the population.12 It is reported that President Diem approved at least the basic directive at a meeting from which he excluded Minister of Civic Action Hieu.

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This plan now considers only the Delta area. How the program there will tie into a national plan is not clear because the GVN has also been recently discussing clearing provinces in the Binh Duong area with MAAG. However, it is reported that Thompson coordinated his plan and draft directions with MAAG.

  1. Source: Department of State,INR Files: Lot 75 D 378, SV 23613, Civic Action. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. The date is penciled in at the top. In the margin is written: “This was tabled and revised.” At the March 1 meeting of the Special Group, General Taylor under agenda item 3 asked about the status of economic programs. The minutes of that meeting reported that: “Mr. Coffin was asked to prepare a special report on this for next weekʼs meeting, which would outline specific programs and show the emphasis being placed on support of counterinsurgency.” (Ibid., Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, 1/1/62-7/31/62) Presumably the paper printed here is that report. No specific reference was made to this paper in the minutes of the March 8 meeting, although they indicate that General Taylor “made the general observation that it was very difficult to get hold of civic action programs which were contemplated for South Vietnam.” U. Alexis Johnson promised to have the Vietnam Task Force examine civic action programs and report its findings. (Ibid.)
  2. There was no agenda item 3d in either the March 1 or 8 meeting, although there was an “agenda item 3” on Vietnam for the March I meeting and “agenda items 3a, 3b, and 3c” on Vietnam for the March 8 meeting. “Agenda item 3b” at the latter was entitled “Civic Action. South Vietnam.”
  3. See footnote 6, Document 64.
  4. Secret.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 42.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. The JCS query has not been found.
  8. Transmitted in CA-1198. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series)
  9. See Document 66.
  10. See Document 46.
  11. Document 51.
  12. The draft instructions were enclosed with a letter of February 10 to Trueheart. (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 1814,350. GNV-Task Force (Thompson Mission))