107. Memorandum for the Record of the Secretary of Defense Conference1


  • Notes and Necessary Actions Resulting from SecDef Honolulu Conference on Vietnam, 6 May 1963

Item 1. Evaluation of the Situation in RVN

a. General Harkins discussed the over-all progress that had been made since the last meeting2 and conveyed the feeling of optimism that all elements of the Country Team now have. General Harkins did not attempt to predict a date when the insurgency would be broken, but did feel that we are certainly on the right track and that we are winning the war in Vietnam, although the struggle will still be a protracted one.

In response to a question from the Secretary, General Harkins stated that M-113’s have proven to be excellent combat vehicles and have produced a very high number of VC casualties. In regard to M-114’s, he stated that they had not been in use long enough to prove their merit, but that he expected them to also be of great value.

(1) Action: The Secretary directed that we should examine the Thai MA Program to see if we should put additional M-113/M-114’s in the Thai Program. we should also consider these vehicles for India. In this regard, CINCPAC stated that the most recent submission for Thailand does have APC in the program.

b. General Harkins reported that the M-79 grenade launcher is one of the best weapons they have in Vietnam. It is useful for the troops, paramilitary forces, and for hamlet defense.

(2) Action: The Secretary stated that we should also look into this weapon for Thailand. He wished to know if we have the proper number scheduled. We should also look into the possibility of sending this weapon to South America.

c. General Harkins mentioned that in regard to US helicopter support, in June the Army will begin to shift from H-21’s to HU-1B’s.

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d. In regard to the Navy, Capt. Drachnik reported that scheduled junks are now all operational. The Gulf of Siam patrol has shown good results, where the junks are backed up by PGM as available. He said that additional PGM will be assigned to the area when they are received. Capt. Drachnik stated that one item of concern is the shallow draft swimmer-support boats. They have worked out well but maintenance is difficult. The bow is subject to heavy damage and they have a repair problem, the main trouble at present being getting sufficient epoxy resin. A shipment was due on 1 April but has not yet arrived.

(3) Action: The Secretary directed that we look into this problem and speed up delivery of the epoxy.

e. General Harkins reported that the medical program is going well. We presently have a team of 127 US medical personnel there. They treat about 150,000 people a week. They are training VN personnel, both VNAF and strategic hamlet medics. In regard to the latter, there is a problem with the GVN Department of Health which is slowing up the training program.

(4) Action: The Secretary stated that he thought the major purpose of the 127-man medical team was to train Vietnamese and that it appears they are putting more emphasis on treatment rather than training when the opposite should be true. He directed that COMUSMACV develop and send in a plan for medical training of Vietnamese.

f. General Harkins discussed the training and equipment of the paramilitary forces. In response to a question, he stated that hamlet militia do get weapons, but that the issue of weapons is subject to GVN regulations. The Secretary mentioned that at the previous conference the subject of AR-15 rifles had arisen. He asked how many were in-country and what was the appraisal of this rifle. General Harkins reported that it is a very good weapon and well-liked, but that the weapons in-country can do the job. The Secretary remarked that possibly we should not send in any new rifles unless they are AR-15’s. It was pointed out that our rifle program is now about completed and that all programming is for replacement or attrition, and that for FY 64 substituting AR-15 for other weapons would cost about an additional $1 million.

(5) Action: The Secretary stated he would review the reports presently in Defense regarding the AR-15 prior to making any further decisions regarding this weapon.

g. General Harkins reported that the VC defection rate was increasing. The GVN Chieu Hoi Program has been instituted and looks good. However, there is a shortage of loudspeaker planes to use in connection with this program. It was pointed out that there is a restriction on use of US planes and crews for loudspeaker operations. The VNAF has enough C-47’s, but needs additional loud-speaker equipment.

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(6) Action: The Secretary stated that we should look into the restrictions on use of US planes and crews and make them commonsense restrictions, that we should minimize the participation of US personnel and that we should expand as rapidly as possible the GVN capability for loudspeaker operations. He directed that COMUSMACV send in a list of equipment needed to install in GVN planes and that DOD will see that it is delivered.

h. General Harkins reported on progress of the National Campaign Plan noting that Phase I is essentially completed, and Phase II should formally start in July. However, there will be no dramatic entry into Phase II, since many activities are already underway with increased operations throughout SVN.

i. On the Strategic Hamlet Program, Mr. Trueheart reported that generally speaking it is going very well in the first three Corps areas, but not very well in the IV Corps. He stated that in the II Corps we have an excellent plan which is well co-ordinated and which is going well. In the Delta area, the strategic hamlet problem is more difficult. Here the people are spread out more, with hamlets one house wide and five miles long along the canal. In the area there are more VC, the people are generally more hostile to the Government, and strategic hamlets defenses are more difficult.

j. On border problems, General Harkins stated that as long as we have Laos and Cambodia there will be border problems. In regard to infiltration, he stated that Phu Quoc is a transshipping point. Where the junk patrols are backed up by PGM (as in the Phu Quoc area), they are more effective.

k. In giving his outlook for the future, General Harkins gave his opinion that some of our recent setbacks had been due to people dropping their guard. He said that this is a natural reaction when things are going well, and it is something we have to watch. Also, this is the wrong time for us to mention any cutback to the GVN. We should not have them think that now that we have gotten them this far, we are going to decrease our support.

Item 2. Comprehensive Plan South Vietnam

a. CINCPAC presented the proposed ’64-’69 RVNAF force structure and the proposed phasing in of equipment to the RVNAF. The Secretary questioned some of the figures, in that they showed larger forces in ’68 than in ’64, whereas we are operating on the assumption that the back of the insurgency would be broken by FY’65.

(7) Action: The Secretary stated it his impression that the projections were too light on helos and transport aircraft and too heavy on fighters. He specifically questioned the introduction of F-5A and F-5B aircraft.

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He further stated that insofar as the MAP is concerned, once the insurgency is broken, the MAP for GVN should be about $50 million per year. He suggested that it would be wise to work out two alternative plans-one that the GVN could carry on with about $50-$100 million US assistance annually (including supporting assistance) and the other which showed what would be required from a military standpoint.

b. CINCPAC then presented the detailed ‘64 requirements, which showed a total of $163 million for maintenance of current forces and $59 million for force improvements. It was pointed out that the $163 million operating requirements exceeds the present FY ‘64 Vietnam MAP ceiling of $159.1 million. A detailed list of each project for force improvement was then presented.

(8) Action: The Secretary stated that he did not see how it would be possible to meet the proposed total $222 million for FY 64. He then proposed that the figure of $65 million for ammunition be reduced to about $30 million. He would guarantee that if MACV ran into trouble, DOD would see that requirements were filled immediately from US stocks. The Secretary expressed his views that US equipment now in; country which is to be turned over to the GVN should be turned over at no cost to MAP. This would cover such items as helicopters, C-123, AC&W and Tropo-scatter equipment.

(9) Action: The Secretary also stated that the phase out of US personnel as planned is too slow and that we should try to get US numbers down to a minimum level earlier than FY’66.

Item 3. Role of Attack Aircraft

a. General Anthis presented a briefing of all air operations in Vietnam. In each category (i.e. transport, liaison, combat sorties) there has been a great increase in air activity over the past year.

(10) Action: The Secretary requested that in the future the statistics for combat sorties be broken down to show the types of combat sorties (i.e. interdiction, convoy escort, helo escort, etc.)

b. General Anthis stated there has been an increase in photo recce over the past year. He stated that over 70% of targeting for interdiction purposes comes from photo recce. Currently, we have a problem of quickly getting film from the airfield to processing centers. MACV has requested additional aircraft (U-3B or T-37) for this purpose.

(11) Action: The Secretary asked that we look into getting the U-3B aircraft to Vietnam.

(12) Action: The Secretary remarked while the VN Air Force is increasing its activities, the job to be done has also increased. The VNAF is not doing a greater proportion of the job than they were doing last year; in air lift the VNAF is doing proportionally less than they were a year ago. He stated that it is his desire that we expedite [Page 269] training of the Air Force so that they can take over an increasingly greater share of air tasks, thus relieving US personnel. He directed that COMUSMACV look into the training of VNAF personnel with a view toward accomplishing this purpose.

c. General Anthis mentioned that the number of flare missions has increased greatly over the past year and that the supply of flares was getting short.

(13) Action: The Secretary directed that we get an additional supply of flares out there as soon as possible. It was reported by CINCPAC that 5,000 are now en route. The Secretary asked that we see that the flare supply is adequate.

d. General Anthis gave a detailed briefing of air interdiction operations, covering the types of targets, the targeting process, and the control of air interdiction operations. The controls are all pointed toward hitting verified VC targets and avoiding hitting any friendly personnel. General Anthis mentioned that in the past year there have been 1350 combat sorties. During this period there have been reported only 14 alleged reports of air strikes hitting friendly personnel. Of these 14, only in two cases did investigation show the aircraft hitting the wrong target.

(14) Action: The Secretary stated he is satisfied that we are doing well in the air interdiction effort, but that we should make sure that all possible errors are reported and that we keep track of any errors shown up in targeting in the air strikes.

Item 4. US-GVN Relations

a. Ambassador Nolting stated that the atmosphere of US-GVN relations is somewhat less cordial than it was six months ago. There remains a sense of touchiness in the GVN resulting from the CI fund discussions. He also attributed this situation to an increasing sense of nationalism and from misgiving on US policy in SEA due to:

Mansfield Report
The situation in Laos
The touchiness of the GVN regarding US advisors (both military and civilian) whenever advisory efforts touch upon the political field.

In regard to advisors, he stated that he feels no specific measures are called for to remove any blocks of advisors. The GVN concern re US advisors is not with any advisors who are in the strictly military field, but rather with the group of advisors, civilian and military, now in each province and concerned with advising and assisting the Province Chiefs. While these advisors are the ones that cause GVN concern, at the same time it is these advisors who are most valuable in the over-all CI effort.

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(15) Action: The Secretary stated that we should have a plan for phasing out US personnel; as the situation improves we should phase down our effort. This will be required if we are to get continued US support for our effort in Vietnam. The Secretary also stated that the last category of personnel he would take out would be advisors. He still desires that we lay down a plan to have the RVNAF take over some functions this year so that we can take out 1,000 or so personnel late this year if the situation allows. The Secretary repeated that we should lay down a plan to expedite training to get VN personnel to take over tasks being performed by US personnel. For instance, he asked why should we have US personnel flying Cessna 185’s?

b. Mr. Brent, USOM Director, presented the GVN budgetary projections, showing that there is a projected shortage of piasters for future operations. The alternatives we have for solving this piaster shortage are all undesirable; these include budget deficits, US piaster purchase, and relaxation of US imposed import controls. The piaster problem was discussed further without reaching any recommended solution.

(16) Action: The Secretary requested that in view of the impending piaster shortage and the GVN deficit, the Ambassador let State and Defense know if the GVN should do any cutting back on its piaster support of CI operations.

c. There was a brief discussion of press relations. It was pointed out that we have a problem either if US personnel talk too much or refuse to talk to the press at all. Better indoctrination is the only way we can improve this situation.

(17) Action: The Secretary requested that General Wheeler look into putting more emphasis on training our people before they leave the US. This is the best place to indoctrinate them in regard to press relations.

Item 5. GVN Operations in the DRV

(Being reported separately by Gen. Krulak.)3

L.C. Heinz4
Rear Admiral, USN
Director, Far East Region
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 6214, Sec Def Conference (HQ CINCPAC). Secret. Drafted in Washington on May 8.

    The participants in the conference, which was held at CINCPAC headquarters, included Secretary of Defense McNamara, General Harkins, General Krulak, Admiral Felt, Assistant Secretary of State Hilsman, Ambassador Nolting, and USOM Director Brent.

  2. The previous conference convened by the Secretary of Defense to consider progress in Vietnam was held on October 2, 1962. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. II, Document 298.
  3. No such report has been found.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.