265. Memorandum for the Record by the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (Krulak)1

SUBJECT

  • Vietnam
1.
At 1900, Mr. Hilsman, having just returned from Honolulu, assembled Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Colby and me to discuss the Vietnam problem.
2.
He reported that Ambassadors Lodge and Nolting and Admiral Felt were unanimous in the conviction that precipitate action should be avoided. He then stated that, in his view, the content of Saigon message 299 (attached)2 is a logical appraisal of the matter-that the military were a dominant factor in bringing the current martial law arrangement into being.
3.
He then asked how we might exploit the situation, which generated the following comments:
  • From Colby:—endeavor to induce the GVN quickly to take a series of favorable actions respecting the Buddhists to exhibit that the repressive measures were necessary to establish the tranquillity in which the religious problem could be solved; generate some favorable public reaction from the Buddhist leadership.
  • From Forrestal:—the same; specifically do not press the Government either to abolish martial law quickly nor to return to the status quo ante, but to use the military regime to achieve some of the reforms [Page 602]which we have been advocating, not just in connection with the Buddhists, but in other areas of weakness; get press censorship withdrawn quickly and get the best possible picture before the world.
  • From me:—as a matter of first importance, find out who is in charge-whether the military are taking orders from Nhu or whether Diem is taking orders from the military; then put our influence on whomever is actually in authority to show, by concrete action, their determination to end the religious crisis; press the military to intensify their operations against the VC; get Madame Nhu out of the country.
4.
Hilsman agreed with the above; asked Colby to bend every effort to learn the status of Nhu and the relationship between Diem and the military. He asked his State subordinates to work on a message to Ambassador Lodge3 conveying the initial Washington reaction to the situation, and asked all present to think of specific actions which we should, at the proper time, press the GVN to take.
V. H. Krulak4Major General, USMC
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Secret.
  2. Document 261.
  3. Document 268.
  4. Printed from copy that bears this typed signature.