257. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (Krulak) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)1

SACSA 468-963


  • Vietnam
I know you are aware of and concerned with yesterday’s Halberstam article in the Times.2 We, as well as others, are dissecting it, exposing its factual and statistical weaknesses.
This is easy, but misses a key point, which I feel may be of use to you apart from our point-by-point analysis, which is coming. It is this—Halberstam, in his comments on the temperature of the battle in the Delta, exhibits a lack of understanding of our entire Vietnam strategy. From the start, that strategy involved a purification process, north to south; driving the Viet Cong southward—away from their sources of strength and compressing them in the southernmost area of the peninsula. This has proceeded. I Corps is fairly clean; II Corps, not much less so; III Corps, warmer; and IV Corps, still tough.
This was expected. The gradual redisposition of Vietnamese power, from the less to the more critical areas, portrays this. As General Cao, CG, IV Corps, said in June, “We want to see all the Viet Cong squeezed into the Ca Mau Peninsula, and then rot there.”
If Halberstam understood clearly this strategy, he might not have undertaken to write his disingenuous article. Perhaps this strategy should be more fully explained to the press.


V. H. Krulak
Major General, USMC
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files:FRC 69 A 3131, Vietnam 331. Secret. A note on the source text indicates that McNamara saw this memorandum.
  2. In a New York Times article of August 15, entitled “Vietnamese Reds Gain in Key Area,” Halberstam concluded that the military situation in the Delta had seriously deteriorated over the past year. This decline, Halberstam reported, occurred notwithstanding the previous 20 months of a U.S. build-up of South Vietnamese forces there. Halberstam noted that while the Delta comprised less than a quarter of South Vietnam’s land mass, it contained a majority of its population and resources. According to the Halberstam article, U.S. military sources stated that the Viet Cong moved large units of 600 to 1,000 men into the Delta and were well armed with captured American weapons. Instead of attacking the paramilitary Self-Defense Corps or the Civil Guard, the Viet Cong now took on the regular Armed Forces of South Vietnam.