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

SUBJECT

  • Vietnam
1.
At about 1800 I received a telephone call on the Command Center System from Admiral Riley, who recounted conversations with Mr. Hilsman and Admiral Felt concerning messages which had come in on the situation in Saigon. He referred to a proposed course of action deriving from recommendations made by Thuan, said that the course of action was viewed favorably by Hilsman, Felt and himself.
2.
I told Admiral Riley that I had been called by Forrestal, doubtless on the same subject. With Admiral Riley also on the phone, a call was put through to Forrestal. He asked if I had seen the messages, to which Admiral Riley had earlier alluded. I replied that I had not. He then said that they made clear a course of action, which he, Hilsman and Governor Harriman had converted into an instruction to Ambassador Lodge.2 He said that it had been sent to the President for approval; that it was not something on which Defense clearance was desired, but that he was seeking to advise Mr. Gilpatric of the message. He asked if I could show it to General Taylor, to which I assented. He asked me to come to the White House situation room and get the message.
3.
Admiral Riley interjected the information that he had been in communication with Hilsman and Felt, and agreed that the general course of action appeared sound, although he had not seen the draft message referred to.
4.
I went to the White House situation room at about 1900 and read all the related incoming messages. Forrestal then showed me the enclosure,3 saying that it had been sent to the President for approval. He stated that he had just finished discussing it with Mr. Gilpatric by telephone, and that Mr. Gilpatric was in accord with its content.
5.
Forrestal did not solicit my views on the content of the enclosure; however, I made two observations. First, where the words “press on all levels of the GVN” appear, that my interpretation is that it means we must start with Diem himself, and not foreclose him. Second, where it speaks of “key military leaders” that it is delusive to [Page 631]think of the Vietnamese military as united and homogeneous. It is, in fact and by design, fragmented. Forrestal concurred with these comments, without elaboration.
6.
I asked to have a copy of the draft made, which I could take to General Taylor; called his quarters and requested that I be notified when he returned. I then went to my quarters and, at about 1930, notified Admiral Riley of above. He said he intended to call Admiral Felt and bring him up to date.
7.
Immediately after finishing the call to Riley, I was called by Forrestal, who wanted me to report that the President had in fact approved the message, with only the addition that the means of its implementation would be in the discretion of Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins. I reported this to Admiral Riley, who stated that he had already called Admiral Felt, and would not give him the additional information since he would probably get it in an information copy of the message. I told him that Felt did not show up as an addressee on the draft that I had.
8.
I called General Taylor’s quarters and made specific arrangements for him to call me at the command center, on his return. At about 2145, not having been called, I called General Taylor’s quarters, found him there and took the enclosure to him.
9.
General Taylor read the message, questioned me on the nature of the incoming messages which gave rise to it, and upon the earlier events of the day, of which I had knowledge. He then observed that he would not wish to be on the receiving end of the message, that it is not sufficiently explicit, that it does not give Diem adequate chance to do what we want. He stated that it reflects the well-known compulsion of Hilsman and Forrestal to depose Diem and, had McGeorge Bundy been present, he would not have approved the message. Finally, he stated that the message had not been given the quality of interdepartmental staffing it deserved, and that he would be prepared to say so at a proper time.
V. H. Krulak
Major General, USMC
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret.
  2. See Document 281.
  3. Telegram 243, Document 281.