327. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge)1


  • Viet-Nam—General Discussion

Lodge expressed gratitude and praise for the back-up by FE that he has received. Hilsman said that the high regard was mutual.

Lodge raised two other matters described in separate memos.2

Hilsman described the problem of the policy control of the Laos/ North Viet-Nam operations; Lodge had no strong opinions on the matter but understood our concern.

On the question of a Staley-type mission,3 Lodge said he had no opinion but would be willing to receive such a mission if Washington thought it was desirable.

Relations with Laos and Cambodia, including the Khmer Serei activities, were also discussed. Lodge is in agreement with our general program.

There were no problems of backstopping of the Embassy by Washington.

The only administrative matter on which Lodge had an opinion was on new plans for the Embassy. He felt that before the new Embassy was built the plans should be reviewed in the light of the experience that we had recently had. Specifically, the Embassy should be designed from a security/defense point of view. The Vietnamese were a violent people and something violent could happen in the future some time. Also, the plans should include a helicopter landing pad.

One other administrative matter concerned secure-voice equipment between the residence and the chancery. Such equipment was essential; it had the added advantage of providing a good excuse for an American guard 24 hours a day at the residence, which was highly desirable.

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Lodge said he would look into the controls over air and artillery strikes and the question of an effective amnesty program. In general, however, he did not want to push the military committee around on specific issues, but let them develop in their own way, at least until they had worked out a method of operating and their internal relationships.

Also he wants Nes and cannot understand why any other department or agency of the government should have a voice in the appointment of his DCM.

In conversation with Harriman, Lodge agreed that Madame Nhu should not be permitted entry into the United States.

On the question of a Navy man at CINCPAC, Lodge expressed the interesting view that it might be better to have an Army man. Navy matters were routine in the Pacific; the real problem was going to come in any land warfare. In any land fighting the bulk of the troops would have to be Asian; the US should supply only enough men to justify an American as supreme commander. What we need, therefore, is a politically sensitive Army man who would understand the total problem and lay the groundwork for its solution.

The matter of Dr. Gard did not come up.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 S VIET-US. Secret Limit Distribution. Drafted and initialed by Hilsman. Approved in FE on November 29. Lodge traveled to Washington after the Honolulu Conference. A typewritten note on the source text reads: “No additional distribution without authorization from FE>/MT. Hilsman.”
  2. Because of different distribution limitations, Hilsman made three separate memoranda of this conversation. The second is Document 328; the third was not declassified.
  3. For documentation on the Staley Mission to Vietnam, June and July 1961, see vol. I, Documents 72 ff.