132. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency1
- Governor Harriman, The Attorney General, Mr. McCone, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Coffin vice Mr. Bell, Mr. Wilson vice Mr. Murrow, Mr. Bundy vice Mr. Gilpatric, General Krulak vice General
- Taylor Mr. Engle and Mr. Poats were present for Item No. 2 Mr. Martin, Mr. Koren and Mr. Heavner were present for Item 3 Mr. Maechling was present for the meeting
[Here follow items 1, “Special Report-Mr. Forrestal,” and 2, “Follow-up Report on Indonesia from May 16 Meeting.”]
3. Discussion with Colonel Serong on the Situation in Viet-Nam
Colonel Serong, Head of the Australian Training Mission to South Viet-Nam, stated that he believes we are winning the war in VietNam, current statistical indicators reflect favorable trends, and the most significant development is the increase in volume of spontaneous intelligence provided by the people. This is because the Government is now providing them with security from the Viet Cong.
He pointed out that there are problems with the press in Viet-Nam but they are reporting what they see or are being told. He believes this situation can be improved by working more closely with them in the field. Our U.S. military advisors are reflecting in their comments to the press their frustrations to get the Vietnamese to accept their advice. The big success story in Viet-Nam is the strategic hamlet program and this story has not yet been fully told. He stated that out of a total population in Viet-Nam of about 16 million some 8 million have been moved into the strategic hamlets, resulting in one of the biggest population moves in history.
Colonel Serong presented an oral and graphic description of the concept of the strategic hamlet program in the southern portion of Viet-Nam, stating that its objective is to establish strategic hamlets on a radial basis along communications routes with subsequent development of hamlets laterally to fill the gaps. The purpose is to separate the people from the insurgents.
The radial development of the hamlets is progressing well but the lateral program is falling behind. He observed that we may be overextending ourselves in the strategic hamlet program leaving a number of Viet Cong behind enabling them to penetrate areas already cleared. The strength of Vietnamese armed forces is being sapped to counter the threats of the Viet Cong in these pockets of resistance. He believes [Page 316] that unless we clear out these Viet Cong pockets we may provide the Viet Cong with an opportunity to concentrate against the over-extended Vietnamese armed forces.
Colonel Serong commented that the concept for the strategic hamlet program in the high plateau area envisions groups of mutually supporting areas cleared of the Viet Cong. The strategic hamlets in this area are designed to restrict and inhibit Viet Cong movement while those in the south are designed to destroy the Viet Cong.
Colonel Serong stated that he had discussed this problem with Diem and Diem recognizes the threat of the left-behind pockets of Viet Cong but he desires to extend the presence of his Government into outlying areas. Diem believes that to pursue this program effectively he may require additional resources from the U.S.
General Harkins, in discussing this matter with Colonel Serong, stated that he believed the Vietnamese units deployed to counter these left-behind Viet Cong are effectively utilized as they have been able to flush out and destroy the Viet Cong.
Colonel Serong concluded by stating that our goal should be to get a higher percentage of the population into areas free from Viet Cong attack, concentrate on economic programs in this area, and then extend these “white areas” throughout the country.
[Here follows item 4, “Progress Report on the Internal Defense Plan for Colombia.”]
- Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451. Secret. Drafted by Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.↩