14. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency1
- Mr. Johnson, Mr. Bell, General Taylor, Mr. McCone, Mr. Dungan, Mr. Wilson vice Mr. Murrow, Mr. Bundy vice Mr. Gilpatric
- Mr. Koren and Mr. Wood were present for the meeting
1. Southeast Asia Status Report
[Here follows discussion of Thailand.]
Mr. Wood in discussing the situation in South Viet-Nam observed that the recent helicopter episode in which three Americans were lost was more serious from the political viewpoint than militarily.2 Mr. Dungan pointed out, however, that should such episodes be repeated, and coupled at the same time with public criticism from Vietnamese exiles in this country, it could result in difficulties with Congress.
The Group discussed at length the question of relating press coverage in South Viet-Nam to the positive side, as compared to the current predilection for articles critical of the Diem Government, and those which reflect the more adverse circumstances. Mr. Wilson will meet with the public relations officers of the several departments concerned, and try to develop ideas for improving the situation.3 In [Page 29] the meantime, General Wheeler will be notified that he should be prepared for a public appearance when he returns from his present trip, such as discussing the South Viet-Nam situation on “Meet the Press” or some similar television program. It was also agreed that it might be desirable to arrange background briefings for key members of Congress in the hope of heading off adverse reaction to the newspaper articles.
“I today informed the Secretary of our discussion in the Special Group (C.I.) yesterday of U.S. press coverage in Viet-Nam. In addition, the Secretary suggested that we have Saigon look into the possibility of ‘keeping a book’ on correspondents out there for a period of perhaps two weeks or so which perhaps in some way could demonstrate the present apparent bias of many of them toward reporting only defeats or alleged defeats and ignoring the successful operations. What the Secretary had in mind was Saigon keeping track of the offers made by ourselves or the Viet-Namese to the correspondents to cover successful operations and constructive accomplishments and the number of these accepted by the correspondents as compared with their acceptance when they sensed a less successful operation. Depending on the results of such a record, we could then decide what use could best be made of it.” (Department of State, Central Files, 951K.6211/1-1863)
The members, in general, agreed that there has been some improvement in the situation in South Viet-Nam during the last year. However, this has seemingly not affected the ability of the Viet Cong to maintain the size of their forces through local recruitment. It was also noted that it is extremely difficult to obtain significant information on the extent of infiltration of personnel or supplies.
2. Economic Assistance to South Viet-Nam from Third Countries
The Group agreed that progress is being made, but that much more remains to be done. Mr. Bell discussed this subject with Japanese officials during his recent trip, and also with the German Ambassador in South Viet-Nam. The latter suggested that it should be taken up with the German Government from the Washington level. Mr. Bell has asked the President to bring up the subject with the Italian Prime Minister during the latter’s visit. It was agreed that the field should develop specific types of assistance needed from third countries, and that Washington would then contact the respective capitals to seek cooperation. State will work with AID and the field on the details, and will then develop a coordinated circular telegram to Chiefs of Mission in the third countries concerned.
3. Emergency Medical Program for South Viet-Nam
The members agreed with an observation by Mr. Bell, that as the AID and DOD memoranda4 were uncoordinated, and thus did not present an overall picture, a joint briefing memorandum should in the [Page 30] future be prepared for the convenience of the members where two or more departments make reports on the same subject. Mr. Johnson said that his assistant will monitor this, and see that it is done.
“AID support of village and hamlet health stations, provincial hospitals, surgical teams, malaria control, mobile clinics, and nurses training. DOD complementing this program by sending out 29 teams of U.S. Army medical personnel in February, 1963 to assist and advise VN Armed Forces, Civil Guard, and Self-Defense Corps, in developing medical capabilities. USIS provides informational support and publicity.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/IAF Files: FRC 68 A 416, C.I. Special Group Meeting Notes)
4. Civic Action Teams in South Viet-Nam
General Taylor expressed his concern as to whether enough is being done by the South Vietnamese military in the field of civic action. However, it was agreed to hold off the development of a further report on this subject until General Wheeler returns.
[Here follows discussion of the final item, “Miscellaneous”.]
- Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Special Group (CI). Secret. Drafted by James W. Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.↩
- See Document 1.↩
- On January 18, Johnson sent a memorandum to Koren commenting on the discussion of press coverage in the Special Group:↩
- Not found. Notes on the meeting prepared in USIA give the following summary of the discussion under item 3:↩